The EU opens formal probe into TikTok over protection of children

Feb 19, 2024, 10:59 AM

The European Union has launched a formal investigation into TikTok. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty I...

The European Union has launched a formal investigation into TikTok. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

(Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — The European Union has launched a formal investigation into TikTok to determine whether the company is doing enough to protect minors on its platform as well as examine other suspected violations of the bloc’s landmark Digital Services Act.

“The opening of proceedings means that the (European) Commission will investigate TikTok’s functionalities, systems and policies related to certain suspected infringements. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation,” a spokesperson for the bloc’s executive arm said in a statement Monday.

The commission will assess whether the company, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, is complying with requirements for large social media platforms to mitigate the risk of users becoming addicted to their content and to safeguard minors’ privacy and safety.

TikTok’s age verification tools, aimed at preventing children from accessing inappropriate content, “may not be reasonable, proportionate and effective,” the European Commission said in a press release Monday.

The investigation will also look into whether TikTok has been transparent about advertisements on its platform and given researchers sufficient access to its data.

A TikTok spokesperson told CNN that it “has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under-13s off the platform.”

“We’ll continue to work with experts and industry to keep young people on TikTok safe and look forward to now having the opportunity to explain this work in detail to the commission,” the spokesperson added.

Social media companies operating in the EU are bound by obligations set out in the Digital Services Act, enacted in August, which places stricter requirements on large tech companies — defined as those with more than 45 million monthly users in the bloc — and seeks to protect people’s rights online. TikTok has almost 136 million monthly active users in the EU, according to the European Commission.

Companies found to have flouted the rules can be fined the equivalent of up to 6% of their annual global revenue.

It is the second time in as many months that the commission has launched formal proceedings against a large social media company. In December, the body said it was investigating X to determine whether it had failed to meet certain legal obligations to fight the spread of illegal content and disinformation.

The formal probes follow a request sent by the commission to TikTok and X last fall asking for more information on the steps they were taking to comply with the Digital Services Act, to which both companies have responded.

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The EU opens formal probe into TikTok over protection of children