May 21. 2024. 6:56

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TikTok faces EU Commission’s second probe, potential suspension of reward program

The European Commission initiated a second round of formal proceedings against TikTok, under the Digital Services Act (DSA) on Monday (22 April) on the launch of TikTok Lite, signalling intentions to suspend the app’s reward program.

The Commission expressed concerns about TikTok Lite’s ‘Task and Reward Program’, which allows users to earn points for engaging in activities like watching videos and liking content. Rewards include Amazon vouchers, PayPal gift cards, and an in-app currency called TikTok coins.

The EU executive also voiced concerns about addictive effects, especially for children, due to the potential absence of effective age verification mechanisms.

TikTok Lite is a new app designed for regions with slower internet speeds. It launched last month in Spain and France.

“We suspect TikTok Lite feature to be toxic and addictive, in particular for children. Unless TikTok provides compelling proof of safety —which it failed to do until now—we stand ready to trigger DSA interim measures including the suspension of the TikTok Lite ‘reward programme’,” Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton wrote in a post on X.

TikTok has until 24 April to submit its defence arguments against a suspension.

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), under which the Commission opened proceedings, entered into force on 17 February, regulates how online actors should deal with illegal and harmful content online.

TikTok missed a 24-hour deadline set last Wednesday to submit its risk assessment for the launch of the lite app in the two EU countries, a Commission official said during a Monday briefing.

On Monday, the Commission gave the app another 24 hours to submit the assessment — until 23 April.

Under the DSA, the risk assessment should have been conducted and submitted before the app’s launch.

After TikTok Lite launch in Spain, France, EU Commission wants details

The EU Commission has given 24 hours for TikTok to provide a risk evaluation of the lighter version of its app, which the executive says should have been conducted prior to the app’s launch in France and Spain in April

The investigation

The investigation announced on Monday will focus on TikTok’s compliance with the DSA obligation to conduct and submit a risk assessment report before deploying functionalities, such as the ‘Task and Reward Program’.

The Commission believes it is likely to have an impact on systemic risks.

The investigation will examine potential negative effects on mental health, particularly minors, due to features encouraging addictive behaviour, and assess the measures taken by TikTok to mitigate these risks.

“When we say that minor protection is a priority under the DSA, we really mean it,” a Commission official said, echoing earlier and current statements of Breton.

Next steps

TikTok’s failure to submit a required risk assessment for TikTok Lite has led the Commission to suspect DSA infringement.

As such, the executive body is ready to suspend the TikTok Lite rewards program in the EU pending a safety assessment.

Failure to respond to the Commission’s request may result in fines of up to 1% of TikTok’s annual income, with potential periodic penalties.

Starting formal proceedings lets the Commission enforce rules, such as interim measures and decisions if TikTok does not comply. It also means EU member state authorities cannot oversee these issues anymore.

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