EU launches formal investigation into TikTok’s alleged breaches of digital services act

In a significant move, the European Union (EU) has initiated a formal investigation into the popular video-sharing app TikTok over concerns related to the protection of minors online. This marks the second probe under the recently introduced Digital Services Act (DSA), following the December investigation into Elon Musk’s X.

The EU, through the European Commission, expressed particular worries about TikTok’s potential failure to adequately address the negative impacts on young users.

Of major concern is the “rabbit hole” effect, where users are led to more dangerous content based on algorithmic recommendations.

The investigation also scrutinizes TikTok’s age verification tools, with the EU questioning their reasonableness, proportionality, and effectiveness. Other areas of focus include “advertising transparency” and “data access for researchers.”

The European Commission emphasized the need for TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, to comply fully with the DSA, especially considering its vast reach to millions of children and teenagers across the EU.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, stated, “We must spare no effort to protect our children.”

Regulators will continue gathering evidence, and the commission has the authority to take further enforcement steps if deemed necessary.

TikTok, with over 142 million monthly users in the EU, has committed to working on protecting minors online. The company’s spokesperson noted their pioneering features and settings dedicated to the safety of teens and restricting under-13s from the platform.

The formal probe will delve into four key areas: TikTok’s assessment and mitigation of systemic risks, compliance with protecting minors’ privacy and safety, measures on a “reliable” advertisement repository, and steps taken to enhance transparency.

The investigation comes with potential consequences for TikTok, as the DSA grants Brussels the authority to impose heavy fines, reaching up to six percent of a digital firm’s global revenues. The commission can even block platforms within the 27-nation bloc for serious and repeated violations.

The DSA, effective since February 17, applies to major online platforms, including TikTok and Elon Musk’s X, as well as social media giants Facebook and Instagram.

The legislation demands increased responsibility from companies to police online content while expecting swift and effective action to protect users in the digital realm. The proceedings have no specified deadline for completion.

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