Why the US and EU are going after TikTok


TikTok is one of the most popular apps with children and young people worldwide, but it has also sparked considerable controversy. The Chinese video-sharing platform has been in the news recently as both the United States and the European Union have taken action against it.

What steps is the US taking against TikTok?

US President Joe Biden has signed a bill into action that forces TikTok’s Chinese parent company to sell the app or face a US ban. This comes after the US Senate voted in favor of bill on Tuesday.

The bill stipulates that parent company ByteDance must sell off TikTok within 270 days, though provides a possibility for a 90-day extension if progress is made. Failing to do so, TikTok will be removed from the Apple app store and Google’s Play Store.

The US move stems from data protection concerns. Chinese TikTok parent company ByteDance is suspected of giving or being forced into passing on user data to the Chinese Communist Party. In the US, some 170 million people currently use the app. There are also concerns China could use TikTok to spread propaganda and disinformation. TikTok itself rejects these accusations.

Why is the EU taking aim at TikTok?

The EU has also set its sights on TikTok, albeit for entirely different reasons. A probe will examine whether TikTok Lite’s reward function — allowing users to earn money for certain tasks — endangers the mental health of young app users and thus violates EU rules. The new app has been available in France and Spain since April.

Large social media platforms such as Facebook, X, Instagram and TikTok have had to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) since August 2023. The DSA is intended to prevent illegal or harmful online practices. The EU also prohibits “dark patterns” designed to keep users coming back to online platforms.

The EU Commission criticizes TikTok for launching the new TikTok Lite app in France and Spain without having sufficiently assessed the risks beforehand. TikTok had until April 18 to submit a risk report but initially missed the deadline. It was then given another deadline and submitted a risk assessment this Tuesday, according to TikTok.

In doing so, TikTok has for now avoided steep EU fines. The bloc, after all, can impose fines of up to 1% percent of total annual company revenue. The EU could also block TikTok Lite’s controversial reward function.

Back in February, the EU already launched a probe into TikTok over child protection concerns.

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