EU Opens Investigation Against TikTok Over Child Protection

EU Opens Investigation Against TikTok Over Child Protection

EU Opens Investigation Against TikTok Over Child Protection

In a significant development, the European Union (EU) has initiated a formal investigation into TikTok, examining the platform's measures to protect minors and potential violations of the Digital Services Act.

The probe, announced by the bloc's executive arm, will scrutinize TikTok's functionalities, systems, and policies regarding suspected infringements, emphasizing that the investigation does not preclude any specific outcomes.

The European Commission will specifically evaluate TikTok's adherence to the requirements set for large social media platforms, focusing on mitigating the risk of user addiction and safeguarding the privacy and safety of minors. TikTok, owned by China's ByteDance, faces questions about the effectiveness of its age verification tools designed to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. The commission expressed concerns that these tools "may not be reasonable, proportionate and effective."

In addition to child protection issues, the investigation will delve into TikTok's transparency regarding advertisements on its platform and assess whether the company has provided adequate access to its data for researchers.

A spokesperson for the EU's executive arm stated, "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."

TikTok responded to the investigation, emphasizing its commitment to safety measures for young users. A TikTok spokesperson told CNN that the platform has pioneered features and settings to protect teenagers and prevent users under the age of 13 from accessing the platform. The spokesperson expressed the company's readiness to work with experts and the industry, looking forward to explaining its safety efforts to the European Commission in detail.

Operating under the Digital Services Act enacted in August, social media companies in the EU, defined as those with more than 45 million monthly users in the bloc, are obligated to adhere to stricter requirements aimed at protecting individuals' rights online. TikTok, boasting almost 136 million monthly active users in the EU, now faces scrutiny under these regulations.

Companies found in violation of the Digital Services Act rules can incur fines equivalent to up to 6% of their annual global revenue. This investigation marks the second instance in as many months where the European Commission has initiated formal proceedings against a large social media company. In December, the commission announced a similar probe into X, examining its compliance with legal obligations in combatting the spread of illegal content and disinformation.

These formal investigations follow a request from the commission to both TikTok and X last fall, seeking more information on the steps taken by the companies to comply with the Digital Services Act. Both companies have responded to the commission's inquiries, leading to the current formal proceedings. The outcomes of these investigations could have far-reaching implications for how social media platforms operate within the EU and may set precedents for future regulatory actions in the digital realm.

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Azamat Abdoullaev

Tech Expert

Azamat Abdoullaev is a leading ontologist and theoretical physicist who introduced a universal world model as a standard ontology/semantics for human beings and computing machines. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and theoretical physics. 

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