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European Union Launches Investigation into TikTok for Possible Breach of Online Content Rules

The European Union is set to conduct a thorough investigation into ByteDance’s TikTok, assessing potential violations of online content rules focused on safeguarding children and ensuring transparent advertising. EU industry chief Thierry Breton announced the decision on Monday, citing concerns related to addictive design, screen time limits, age verification, the rabbit hole effect, and default privacy settings on the popular short video app.

Breton’s decision comes after a comprehensive review of TikTok’s risk assessment report and its responses to information requests. The inquiry, conducted under the framework of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which became applicable to all online platforms on Feb. 17, targets large platforms and search engines, demanding more robust efforts to combat illegal online content and threats to public security.

If found guilty of breaching DSA rules, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, based in China, could face fines of up to 6% of its global turnover. The investigation will focus on TikTok’s system design, including algorithmic features that might encourage behavioral addictions and create ‘rabbit hole effects.’ Additionally, it will scrutinize the platform’s measures to ensure privacy, safety, and security for minors.

TikTok has expressed its commitment to collaborating with experts and the industry to maintain a safe environment for young users, emphasizing its ongoing efforts to address challenges faced by the entire industry regarding the protection of teens and preventing under-13s from accessing the platform.

The European Commission will delve into whether TikTok provides a reliable database on advertisements, enabling researchers to assess potential online risks. This inquiry follows the EU’s scrutiny of Elon Musk’s social media platform X in December last year, marking the second investigation under the DSA framework.

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