TikTok, in the sights of Brussels. The European Union (EU) announced on Monday February 19 an investigation targeting the Chinese social network for alleged failures in the protection of minors. This is the second procedure of this type under new European rules after that concerning X (formerly Twitter) opened in December.

The European Commission explained that it had opened “a formal procedure” to determine whether TikTok, owned by the Chinese group ByteDance, infringed the Digital Services Regulation (DSA). 

The concerns of the European digital policeman relate in particular to "the protection of minors", "the transparency of advertising", "access to data for researchers" as well as the "risks linked to the addictive design" of the platform and “harmful content”.

“As a platform reaching millions of children and adolescents, TikTok has a special role to play in protecting minors online”, which is “one of the key priorities of the DSA”, said the European Commissioner at the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

This “infringement procedure” should allow the Commission to ensure that TikTok takes the necessary measures “to protect the physical and emotional well-being of young Europeans”, explained Thierry Breton.

“TikTok was the first to offer features and settings intended to protect adolescents and prevent those under 13 from accessing the platform,” reacted a spokesperson for the company, emphasizing that “the the entire sector" was faced with these questions. “We will continue to work with experts and the industry to keep young people safe on TikTok; and we welcome the opportunity to now explain this work in detail to the Commission,” he added. .

Read alsoProtection of minors: TikTok and YouTube targeted by an investigation by the European Commission

Very popular among young people, TikTok claims more than 134 million monthly users in the European Union.

The DSA came into full force on Saturday with obligations now imposed on all online platforms, under penalty of fines, to better protect users against illegal content.

Read alsoThe EU imposes a fine of 345 million euros on TikTok linked to the data of minors

Risk of big fines

The regulation on digital services has already applied since the end of August to the most powerful companies like X, TikTok as well as the main services of Meta (Facebook, Instagram), Apple, Google, Microsoft or Amazon.

In December, the European Union opened a formal investigation targeting Elon Musk's social network suspected of failing to fulfill its obligations in the fight against disinformation, the circulation of violent images or incitement to hatred.

In total, 22 very large Internet players, including three pornographic sites, were placed under the direct surveillance of the European Commission, which recruited more than a hundred experts in Brussels to assume its new role as digital policeman.

Violators face heavy fines, up to 6% of their annual global turnover, or even a ban on operating in Europe in the event of serious and repeated violations.

The opening of the investigation targeting TikTok follows a request for information sent at the beginning of November by the Commission to the video sharing platform. TikTok was required in particular to detail “the measures taken to comply with its obligations regarding the protection of minors”.

The Commission clarified on Monday that the investigation would focus in particular on the means implemented to reduce the risks “arising from the design of the TikTok system, including algorithmic systems, which can stimulate behavioral addictions”. 

It also involves examining “the age verification tools used by TikTok to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content”.

The investigation also concerns "alleged failures in researchers' access to TikTok data", an obligation to allow the authorities to verify compliance with the new regulation.

The Commission will now work to collect evidence, for example by sending requests for additional information, conducting interviews or inspections. No time limit is set for this type of investigation. “The opening of a formal infringement procedure does not prejudge its outcome,” underlines the Commission.

With AFP

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