EU To Probe TikTok Over Child Safety Concerns | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into TikTok over a range of concerns, including the protection of minors and addictive design.

It plans to look at whether the company is sticking to its obligations around the assessment and mitigation of systemic risks under the Digital Services Act. Specifically, it’s examining whether the company’s algorithms cause behavioral addictions or create so-called “rabbit hole effects.”

It will also assess the company’s mitigation measures—whether the age verification tools used by TikTok to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content are reasonable, proportionate and effective.

Meanwhile, it will examine whether the company has put in place “appropriate and proportionate” measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety and security for minors. It will look particularly at the default privacy settings for minors as part of the recommender systems.

“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 commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton.

“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.”

The investigation will also consider whether the company is living up to its DSA obligations to provide a searchable and reliable repository for advertisements on the platform. And, finally, it will look at the measures the company has taken to increase the transparency of its platform—the context here being that it has been suspected of shortcomings in giving researchers access to its publicly accessible data.

TikTok is one of a number of tech giants required to stick to higher standards under the DSA, thanks to having been designated as a Very Large Online Platform.

Last summer, the EU warned that the company would need to do better after a “stress test” revealed weaknesses in its procedures.

The investigation has been welcomed by Amnesty International, which warned last November that TikTok was pushing children toward depressive and suicidal content that risked making any existing mental health challenges worse.

“The mental health consequences being inflicted on children and young people by the social media giant remain a longstanding concern. In 2023, Amnesty International’s research showed that TikTok can draw children’s accounts into dangerous rabbit holes of content that romanticizes self-harm and suicide within an hour of signing up on the platform,” said Damini Satija, program director at Amnesty Tech.

“Children and young people also felt their TikTok use affected their schoolwork and social time with friends and led them to scroll through their feeds late at night instead of catching enough sleep.”

There’s no formal timescale for the probe, with the commission saying that it will continue to gather evidence, for example by sending additional requests for information and conducting interviews or inspections.

“TikTok needs to take a close look at the services they offer and carefully consider the risks that they pose to their users—young as well as old,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for the European Commission program A Europe fit for the digital age. “The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation without prejudice to the outcome.”

TikTok said it plans to cooperate with the investigation.

“TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform, issues the whole industry is grappling with,” said a spokesperson. “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.”


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