EU Launches Investigation Of TikTok Under Digital Services Act

The European Union has announced its official investigation into popular video-sharing app TikTok’s compliance with the newly enacted Digital Services Act (DSA), with regard to “the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, as well as the risk management of addictive design and harmful content.”

The DSA went into effect last week and applies to thousands of digital platforms and services in the EU. TikTok, with 136 million monthly active users in the EU, has been designated by the Commission as a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) and faces additional requirements for systemic risk and algorithmic transparency.

“As a VLOP, four months from its designation, TikTok had to start complying with a series of obligations set out in the DSA,” the Commission noted in its announcement.

About two dozen platforms have been designated as VLOPs, or platforms with over 45 million regional monthly active users, and have been subjected to these extra requirements.

More specifically, the Commission is checking to see whether or not the design of TikTok's systems influence addictive behaviors and create “rabbit hole effects,” and how successful the company's age verification tools are in terms of preventing minors from experiencing inappropriate content on the app.

The Commission is also looking at TikTok’s safety and security measures, especially in terms of default privacy settings for minors, as well as TikTok's compliance with DSA obligations to offer “searchable and reliable repository” for advertisements.

“The investigation concerns suspected shortcomings in giving researchers access to TikTok's publicly accessible data as mandated by Article 40 of the DSA,” the Commission stated, adding that it will look into these suspected breaches via interviews, inspections and data inquiry.

In response to the announcement, a TikTok spokesperson has said that the company will continue to work with experts to keep young people safe and users under 13 off the platform entirely.

The DSA does not set a deadline for bringing formal proceedings to an end and relies instead on the complexity of the case and how well the company concerned cooperates with the Commission.

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