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EU probes TikTok over advertising targeting minors

The European Commission announced, in a press release on February 19, that it had opened an investigation into the Chinese social network TikTok, in order to verify that it complies with the Digital Services Act (DSA). Among the major subjects, the protection of minors, transparency on advertising, “access to data for researchers” and management of risks linked to “addictive design and harmful content”.

The DSA aims to regulate services on the Internet, for example by offering tools for reporting illegal content, better access for users to their personal data, and by limiting advertising targeting. While large platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Apple and Google have had to comply with it since August 25, its application was extended to almost all online sites on February 17.

On November 9, the European Commission had already opened an investigation into the measures implemented by TikTok and YouTube to protect the “mental and physical health” of minors, by requiring the platforms to provide information before November 30.

Consider addiction mitigation measures
This time, Brussels indicated that it would investigate the means implemented to reduce the risks “arising from the design of the TikTok system, including algorithmic systems, which can stimulate behavioral addictions” in the face of the incessant flow of content. It also plans to examine age verification measures, which may “not be reasonable, proportionate and effective”.

“As a platform reaching millions of children and adolescents, TikTok has a special role to play in protecting minors online,” said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market. The Commission wants to ensure that TikTok guarantees “a high level of respect for privacy, safety and security for minors”, particularly regarding default privacy settings. The platform, especially popular with young people, boasts more than 134 million monthly users in the European Union.

For its part, TikTok indicates that it was the first “to offer features and settings intended to protect adolescents and prevent those under 13 from accessing the platform”, adding that “the entire sector ” was concerned. The formal investigation finally relates to “alleged failures in researchers’ access to TikTok data”, access necessary for the authorities to verify the platform’s compliance with the DSA.

An investigation without maximum delay
In the event of proven and prolonged violations, fines could, in principle, reach 6% of the company’s global turnover. The European Commission does not have a maximum time limit to collect evidence constituting an infringement.

This is not the first time that the European Commission has taken an interest in the compliance of a large platform with the DSA. In December, it also opened a “formal investigation” against X (formerly Twitter), suspected of not respecting its obligations on disinformation and moderation of illegal content.

This article is originally published on usine-digitale.fr

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