Zoomers are growing up and TikTok isn’t just for teens anymore, or at least it’s trying not to be. The platform is aiming to graduate along with its primary user-base. And as one step towards maturity, TikTok is introducing an adults-only option for live streamers on the platform who wish to restrict their viewership to those 18 and older.
As for when and why streamers might opt to set an age limit, TikTok offered a couple of theoretical examples.“Perhaps a comedy routine is better suited for people over age 18. Or, a host may plan to talk about a difficult life experience and they would feel more comfortable knowing the conversation is limited to adults,” the company wrote in its Monday news release.
Those justifications may sound naively chaste, but the move to age-restrict some content on the platform is unlikely to make TikTok the next Only Fans. The platform has a strict ban on most of the content that would be traditionally considered “adult.” “We do not allow nudity, pornography, or sexually explicit content,” says the company’s community guidelines.
And nothing in the new announcement suggests that those guidelines will be different for adults-only streams. “All content, even if designated as better suited for those over 18, must adhere to our community guidelines,” said a TikTok spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo. “With regard to moderation, it’s the same as all content in TikTok. We leverage a combination of people and technology to enforce our Community Guidelines which apply to everyone and everything on the platform.”
Worth noting though: Just because the site says explicit content isn’t allowed, doesn’t mean it doesn’t show up. TikTok has struggled with its moderation in the past, and videos that should, theoretically, be barred based on the community guidelines often slip through the cracks.
The company announced its forthcoming, adults-only streams alongside multiple other changes to the livestream feature. For example, users will now be able to include up to five guests in a multi-guest stream. Plus, the app says it’s updating its keyword filtering feature to send reminders and suggestions to creators looking to moderate their own livestream commenters and interactions.
Notably, the company also announced another age-related change to live streaming. Soon, only adult users will be allowed to stream. Currently, TikTokers with a minimum of 1,000 followers older than 16 can livestream, but on November 23 that age limit will go up to 18.
TikTok didn’t fully explain the change in its company blogpost, simply describing the shift as an extension of its already-existing in-app graduated age restrictions (like the 18+ limit in monetization, and the 16+ limit on direct messaging.) “Our decision to change the LIVE age threshold to 18 or older reflects our commitment to protecting our youngest community members as they grow their online presence,” the company wrote to Gizmodo.
Both the adults-only streaming option and the updated age restriction on who can stream were listed under the header, “our ongoing work to help keep our community safe.”
Live streaming is becoming an increasingly large part of TikTok’s business model and interface. In 2021, live streaming revenue was about 15% of TikTok’s total turnover, but it has grown nearly twice as quickly as the company’s online ad business over the past two years.
Streaming is one of the best ways for the platform’s users to make money, as TikTok doesn’t share ad revenue with creators. However the company has faced recent flack over the heavy pie-slice it takes from so-called “gifts” and “tips” given to streamers on the platform. In one particularly shocking case, a BBC investigation found that TikTok and “middlemen” grifters were reportedly pocketing up to 70% of the donations raised by refugees begging on the platform.
Update 10/18/2022, 10:56 a.m. ET: This post has been updated with comment from TikTok.