EU Investigating TikTok’s Influence On Youth

TikTok’s potential troubles are no longer limited to the United States.

On Monday, the European Commission announced it was opening a formal investigation into TikTok that would look into whether the social media app has been violating new rules that it has put in place to protect minors online.

The new law in question is called the Digital Services Act, and it just went into effect last Saturday. It’s a law that was passed to protect children as they spend time online.

This new investigation will look into whether TikTok breached the DSA due to the design of its platform as well as its privacy settings. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company that is based in China.

Should the European Commission find that TikTok was in violation of the new law, a fine could be imposed on the parent company that would amount to as much as 6% of its global revenue.

The commission said on Monday that it launched the formal investigation this week after a preliminary investigation into the matter was conducted last September.

The announcement outlined that the investigation will focus specifically on the algorithmic systems that TikTok uses, including those “that may stimulate behavioral addictions and/or create so-called ‘rabbit hole effects.’”

In addition, the commission will investigate whether TikTok has put appropriate measures in place to “ensure a high level of privacy, safety and security for minors,” as well as whether the platform is in compliance with obligations established under the DSA to provide a searchable repository for all advertisements.

In response to the announcement of the investigation, a spokesperson for TikTok continued to tote the same basic company line that they’ve been pushing for a few years now. They said they’d work with the industry and experts to “keep young people on TikTok safe.”

The company also said it plans to fully explain the work they’re doing in this regard to the European Commission.

In a statement, the spokesperson said:

“TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform.”

TikTok has been the center of investigations for a few years now, with the United States leading the way with much of that.

Former President Donald Trump actually threatened to ban the social media app from the country, unless ByteDance sold their U.S. interests to an American company. While bids for that did proceed, the sale never ended up happening.

ByteDance has said that all data on U.S. users is stored on servers based in the United States, but former employees have said that others based in China often access that information.

The concern, of course, is that the Chinese government could easily access the information of users on the platform, and also seek to launch propaganda campaigns through the algorithms they use.

In early 2023, the White House notified all federal agencies that they had only 30 days to delete TikTok from all government devices. Some cities and states throughout the country have also banned the app on all government-owned or issued devices.