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EU opens TikTok probe under digital law

19 Feb 2024 / technology Print

EU opens TikTok probe under digital law

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into social-media platform TikTok under legislation aimed at providing stronger protection for users of digital services.

The commission is to assess whether TikTok may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, as well as the risk management of addictive design and harmful content.

The EU body says that it made the decision on the basis of a preliminary investigation, as well as TikTok’s replies to requests for information.

The commission says that the proceedings will focus on:

  • Compliance with DSA obligations on the assessment and mitigation of systemic risks linked to the design of TikTok's system – including algorithmic systems that may stimulate behavioural addictions and/or create so-called ‘rabbit-hole effects',
  • Compliance with DSA obligations to put in place appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security for minors, particularly with regard to default privacy settings for minors,
  • Compliance with DSA obligations to provide a searchable and reliable repository for advertisements presented on TikTok, and
  • Measures taken by TikTok to increase the transparency of its platform.

‘Proportionate action’

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that TikTok needed to “take a close look” at the services it offered, and “carefully consider” the risks that they posed to users.

Thierry Breton (Commissioner for Internal Market) added: “As a platform that reaches millions of children and teenagers, TikTok must fully comply with the DSA, and has a particular role to play in the protection of minors online.

“We are launching this formal infringement proceeding today to ensure that proportionate action is taken to protect the physical and emotional well-being of young Europeans,” he concluded.

Further steps

The commission points out that the opening of formal proceedings does not pre-judge the outcome.

It adds that the current opening of proceedings is without prejudice to any other proceeding that the commission may decide to initiate on any other conduct that may constitute an infringement under the DSA.

Under EU law, the opening of formal proceedings gives the commission the power to take further enforcement steps, such as interim measures, and non-compliance decisions. It can also accept any commitment made by TikTok to address the matters subject to the proceedings.

The EU designated TikTok as a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) last year under the DSA, which came fully into force on 17 February.

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