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European Commission launches investigation into TikTok’s for endangering children

The European Union has announced a formal investigation into whether ByteDance’s popular social media platform TikTok has violated regulations aimed at safeguarding children and ensuring transparent advertising practices. EU industry chief Thierry Breton disclosed the decision on Monday following a review of TikTok’s risk assessment report and its responses to inquiries, as reported by Reuters.

Breton outlined the concerns prompting the investigation, citing potential breaches related to transparency, protection of minors, addictive design, screen time management, age verification, and default privacy settings. This move comes under the purview of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which recently came into effect on February 17 and applies to major online platforms and search engines, compelling them to take more decisive actions against illegal content and threats to public security.

If found guilty of violating DSA regulations, the China-based ByteDance could face fines of up to 6% of its global turnover, according to the European Commission. In response, TikTok has pledged to collaborate with industry experts to enhance safety measures for young users and to cooperate closely with the European Commission throughout the investigation.

A spokesperson for TikTok defended the platform’s efforts to protect teenagers and restrict access for those under 13, asserting that TikTok has been a leader in developing features and settings to address these challenges, which are prevalent across the industry.

The investigation will scrutinize TikTok’s system design, including its algorithmic mechanisms that could potentially contribute to addictive behaviors or what is commonly known as the “rabbit hole effect.” Additionally, the EU will assess whether TikTok has implemented adequate measures to ensure minors’ privacy, safety, and security. The European Commission will also examine TikTok’s transparency in advertising data to enable researchers to evaluate potential online risks.

This inquiry marks the second major investigation under the Digital Services Act, following a previous probe into Elon Musk’s social media platform X in December last year.

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