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EU Commission opens proceedings against Tiktok

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EU Commission opens proceedings against Tiktok

The EU Commission is opening proceedings against the online platform Tiktok. Among other things, it concerns youth protection and addictive behavior.

(dpa) The European Commission is taking action against Tiktok. The aim is to check whether the online giant is doing enough to prevent the spread of illegal content and whether it is violating EU rules in areas such as youth protection or advertising transparency. The EU Commission announced this on Monday in Brussels.

The possible misconduct also involves the fact that Tiktok may not be doing enough to ensure that the app does not promote addictive behavior. Specifically, the Commission suspects algorithms that stimulate dependencies or can trigger a so-called rabbit hole effect.

Danger of addiction and concerns about youth protection

This effect – the name is based on the story of “Alice in Wonderland” – describes the phenomenon of getting very intensely lost in a topic and no longer being able to tear yourself away from it. Algorithms can theoretically recognize and exploit such behavioral patterns so that users spend more time on a platform.

Protective measures for minors such as age checks to protect minors may not be effective, the commission said. According to the company, the platform is intended for people who are at least 13 years old. The company’s website says: “It is therefore crucial that teenagers provide their correct date of birth.”

New EU law in force

The commission had already carried out a preliminary investigation, the results of which led to the formal proceedings now initiated against Tiktok. Two months ago, Brussels opened similar proceedings against Platform X. Among other things, this involved references to illegal and misleading contributions to the Gaza war. Online platforms are obliged by a new EU law on digital services (DSA) to take strict action against illegal content such as hate speech and hate speech online.

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Since the law came into force, the EU Commission has sent a list of questions to some large online platforms, including Facebook’s parent company Meta and Snapchat. Among other things, they had to provide information about how they protect the mental health of young people.

Platforms must provide their users with information about ads. For example, why the ads are shown to you and who paid for the advertising. In addition, minors should be given special protection. It is forbidden to specifically target them with advertising that is based on personal data.

A high penalty is in the offing

The EU Commission also wants to investigate whether Tiktok is doing enough to ensure sufficient privacy for users. This is about which data protection settings are set as default for minors. It will also be analyzed whether a searchable directory for the advertisements presented on Tiktok meets the legal requirements. In addition, the EU Commission has doubts as to whether researchers will have sufficient access to Tiktok data as required.

If the Commission comes to the final conclusion that Tiktok is violating the EU Digital Services Act, fines of up to six percent of annual global turnover could be imposed. The commission can also impose penalty payments of up to five percent of Tiktok’s average global daily turnover. And that for every day on which the company does not implement promised measures.

According to reports, Tiktok has an annual turnover of several billion euros. The company itself does not publish any figures. There is no deadline for the procedure that has now been initiated. How long the investigation will take is unclear. According to the Brussels authority, the length depends on how complicated a case is and how cooperatively a company works with the Commission. It is also unclear what the outcome of the investigation will be.

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