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European Union to Investigate TikTok's Commitment to Minors' Online Safety

'We must spare no effort to protect our children,' said the EU's commissioner for Internal Market

European Union to Investigate TikTok's Commitment to Minors' Online Safety

The European Union has formally launched an investigation into TikTok’s compliance with policies regulating internet protections for minors.

The video-sharing platform is enormously popular among teens and young adults across the world. The app, on average, has more than 130 million monthly active users. However, parents and child welfare advocates have expressed concern about TikTok’s algorithm and its long-term effect on mental health.

In a press release on Feb. 19, the European Commission announced its investigation would determine if the Bejing-based social media platform had violated the Digital Services Act (DSA) in “areas linked to the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, as well as the risk management of addictive design and harmful content.”

“The opening of formal proceedings empowers the Commission to take further enforcement steps, such as interim measures, and non-compliance decisions,” stated the commission. “The Commission is also empowered to accept any commitment made by TikTok to remedy on the matters subject to the proceeding.”

The Digital Services Act was officially adopted in November of 2022 and regulates digital services that connect users to goods, services, and content. The policy’s central focus is transparency and securing online rights across members of the European Union.

Among the protections, digital services must have age verification features and are barred from including ads that are designed to behaviorally target minors.

“In addition, the proposal sets out a co-regulatory framework where service providers can work under codes of conduct to address negative impacts regarding the viral spread of illegal content as well as manipulative and abusive activities, which are particularly harmful for vulnerable recipients of the service, such as children and minors,” noted the EU.

The move to open a formal investigation followed a risk analysis assessment carried out by the EU.

Thierry Breton, the Commissioner for Internal Market, said that “the protection of minors is a top enforcement priority for the DSA.” 

“As a platform that reaches millions of children and teenagers, TikTok must fully comply with the DSA and has a particular role to play in the protection of minors online,” said Breton in the EU’s statement.We are launching this formal infringement proceeding today to ensure that proportionate action is taken to protect the physical and emotional well-being of young Europeans. We must spare no effort to protect our children.”

If the governing body finds that TikTok has violated the DSA, its parent company ByteDance could be fined 6% of its global revenue.

A spokesperson for the app said that it would continue to work with experts to ensure the safety of its young users.

"TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform, issues the whole industry is grappling with," the TikTok representative told Reuters.

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