Brussels threatens to suspend the new TikTok Lite app for being “toxic and addictive”

The European Commission Investigates TikTok Lite Under Digital Services Act

The European Commission has initiated proceedings against TikTok to determine whether the launch of its new application, TikTok Lite, in Spain and France may have violated the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA mandates that major platforms provide a risk assessment report and include measures to mitigate any systemic risks before launching any product.

Deadlines and Potential Penalties

The Commission has given TikTok until Tuesday, April 23, to submit the report, until Wednesday, April 24, to present arguments, and until May 3 for the remaining requested information. Failure to meet these deadlines could result in fines of up to 1% of annual revenues or global turnover for TikTok, along with periodic penalties of up to 5% of daily average revenues or global annual turnover. Additionally, the Commission reserves the right to suspend TikTok Lite due to concerns over the mental health of teenagers.

Commission’s Concerns and Statements

Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, expressed concerns regarding TikTok Lite’s potential for addictive behavior, particularly among minors, stating, “It is possible that TikTok has launched TikTok Lite without assessing the risk of addictive behavior, especially for minors.” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, added, “We suspect that the TikTok Lite feature is toxic and addictive, particularly for children. Unless TikTok provides compelling safety evidence (which it has not done so far), we are prepared to activate provisional measures of the Digital Services Act, including the suspension of the TikTok Lite ‘reward program’.”

TikTok’s Response and Defense

Sources within TikTok expressed disappointment with the Commission’s decision, highlighting that the TikTok Lite Reward Center is not available to users under 18 years old, and there is a daily limit on video discovery tasks. However, they affirmed their commitment to advocating for the survival of the new app, stating, “We will continue discussions with the Commission.”

Overview of TikTok Lite

TikTok Lite incentivizes users with “points” for daily logins, video views, and recommending the application to others. TikTok’s intention is for users to earn up to €1 per day, which can be gifted to creators or redeemed for gift vouchers from Amazon and other platforms. The company aims to accelerate its growth among adult users, which has been identified as a weak point in its audience.

Commission’s Concerns about TikTok Lite

However, Brussels is wary of how this program may affect minors. The Commission believes that the risks have not been adequately assessed, particularly those related to the addictive effects of platforms, which are more concerning for children due to the alleged lack of effective age verification mechanisms on TikTok. Despite the company’s assertion that the target audience is adults, age verification for using TikTok, like other platforms, can be bypassed. To claim money from the rewards program, TikTok Lite requires a bank card, a video to identify the user’s age through facial recognition, or a proof of identity.

Previous Investigations and Context

This is the second investigation against TikTok under the Digital Services Act. In February 2024, the Commission opened a preliminary procedure to assess whether TikTok may have violated this law concerning the protection of minors, advertising transparency, access to data for researchers, and the management of addictive and harmful design risks.

Through these actions, the European Commission aims to ensure that digital platforms uphold the highest standards of safety, transparency, and accountability, particularly concerning their impact on vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents.

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