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EU Launches Investigation into TikTok's Compliance with Child Protection Regulations

Discover why TikTok is under scrutiny by the European Commission for alleged breaches in protecting minors and transparency.
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The European Commission opens proceedings against TikTok

In a press release published on February 19, the European Commission announced that it has opened formal proceedings against TikTok in order to establish whether the social network has breached the European Digital Services Regulation (DSA), particularly with regard to the protection of minors.

EU Launches Investigation into TikTok's Compliance with Child Protection Regulations

"On the basis of the preliminary investigation carried out so far, including on the basis of an analysis of the risk assessment report sent by TikTok in September 2023, as well as TikTok's replies to the Commission's formal requests for information," the statement explains, the European Commission is said to have found several alleged infringements by the Chinese-born social network on "the protection of minors online, which is one of the main priorities of the DSA," European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton detailed to AFP, but not only.

What are TikTok's alleged infringements of the DSA?

As the press release explains, this procedure aims to determine whether TikTok is complying with its obligations in terms of:

  • Addiction risk management: TikTok is accused of operating algorithmic systems "that may stimulate behavioral addictions and/or create a 'rabbit hole' effect." The latter expression refers to the tendency of algorithms to confine users to a bubble where they are systematically recommended content covering a number of themes, depending on their previous interactions with the application.
  • Age verification: the control tools put in place by the social network to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate or illicit content are allegedly not "reasonable, proportionate, and effective."
  • Transparency of advertisements: the European Commission expects TikTok to provide "a reliable and searchable directory of advertisements" appearing on the platform.
  • Privacy: the platform must put in place measures guaranteeing "a high level of respect for the privacy, safety, and security of minors," which would entail a partial or total overhaul of the default privacy settings.
  • Data access: the social network would be suspected of "alleged shortcomings" in terms of transparency, and in particular of hindering researchers' access to its data.

The opening of this formal procedure "empowers the Commission to take further enforcement measures, such as interim measures and non-compliance decisions," reads the press release. Over the coming weeks, the organization plans to collect evidence and conduct interviews or inspections to substantiate its allegations.

A first procedure opened in December against X (Twitter)

This is the second procedure opened by the European Commission against a digital giant since the implementation of the Digital Services Act (DSA). The first was launched in December against X (Twitter) for alleged breaches of its obligations in terms of combating disinformation, transparency, and content moderation.

As a reminder, the DSA officially came into force on February 17 for all 22 digital players designated by the European Commission, but has already been applied since August 25 by "online platforms and (...) search engines with more than 45 million users in the European Union," according to the government website, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok.

The aim of this European legislation is to combat the dissemination of illegal content and attacks on democracy, to control the dissemination of advertising, and to protect minors on platforms. Failure to comply with the obligations laid down by the European Union can result in a fine of up to 6% of sales.

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