EU opens investigation into TikTok over "suspected breach of transparency" and protection of children — EU Commissioner says app has "addictive design"

TikTok logo on an iPhone display
(Image credit: Unsplash / Solen Feyissa)

The European Commission has opened an investigation into TikTok over claims it has failed to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act with regards to transparency and protecting children. 

“Today we open an investigation into #TikTok over suspected breach of transparency & obligations to protect minors,” EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a post on X Monday. Breton highlighted four specific issues with the platform: TikTok’s “Addictive design and screen time limits”, the “rabbit hole effect,” age verification, and default privacy settings. 

According to Reuters, formal documents filed by the Commission today state “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.”  

EU continues DSA enforcement

TikTok is not the first platform to fall foul of the DSA. Last year, the Commission opened formal proceedings against X "to assess whether X may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to risk management, content moderation, dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers." Specifically, the Commission highlighted "the dissemination of illegal content in the context of Hamas' terrorist attacks against Israel." 

The Commission had reached out to TikTok under the DSA in October 2023. The Commission formally requested information "on the measures it has taken to comply with obligations related to the risk assessments and mitigation measures against the spreading of illegal content, in particular the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech, as well as the alleged spread of disinformation." Furthermore, the request also addressed "TikTok's compliance with other elements of the DSA, in particular with regards to its provisions related to the protection of minors online." It is likely findings concerning the latter that this investigation has now been formally opened. A full release from the EC states:

The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok may have breached 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.

On the basis of the preliminary investigation conducted so far, including on the basis of an analysis of the risk assessment report sent by TikTok in September 2023, as well as TikTok's replies to the Commission's formal Requests for Information (on illegal content, protection of minors, and data access), the Commission has decided to open formal proceedings against TikTok under the Digital Services Act.

In a statement to iMore, a TikTok spokesperson said "TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform, issues the whole industry is grappling with. We'll continue to work with experts and industry to keep young people on TikTok safe, and look forward to now having the opportunity to explain this work in detail to the Commission." TikTok also referred us to several measures it has in place regarding minor safety and addictive behaviors, including automatic screen limits on U18 accounts, and privacy measures applied by default to accounts for teenagers. 

The news follows a report at the weekend that the EU is set to hit Apple with a 500 million Euro fine over claims it behaved in an anti-competitive manner in preventing Spotify from suggesting payment methods outside of Apple's App Store. Spotify is a famously outspoken critic of Apple's iOS business model. In response to these criticisms and the Digital Markets App, Apple is going to introduce third-party app stores and alternative payment methods to iPhone with iOS 17.4 next month

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9