TikTok proprietor ByteDance is going through contemporary questions on its compliance with the European Union’s Digital Providers Act (DSA), an internet governance and content material moderation framework that places a authorized obligation on bigger platforms to mitigate systemic dangers in areas like youth psychological well being.

The EU’s newest issues about TikTok’s DSA compliance middle on the launch of TikTok Lite. It is a model of the video sharing app which just lately launched (“check launched”, per TikTok) in France and Spain — letting customers over 18 years outdated there earn factors for sure in-app actions, reminiscent of liking content material or following new creators. TikTok says these factors may be redeemed for present playing cards or “cash” that may be gifted to creators.

The reward-linked engagement characteristic seems to be to have triggered concern within the EU about doubtlessly addictive design which might have a unfavorable affect on younger folks’s psychological well being. The European Fee oversees platforms’ compliance with DSA system threat necessities.

In a press release saying the request for info (RFI), the Fee mentioned it’s requested TikTok for extra particulars on the chance evaluation it ought to have carried out earlier than deploying the brand new app within the EU.

“This issues the potential affect of the brand new ‘Process and Reward Lite’ programme on the safety of minors, in addition to on the psychological well being of customers, particularly in relation to the potential stimulation of addictive behaviour,” it wrote, including that it’s additionally requesting information concerning the measures TikTok has put in place to mitigate such systemic dangers.

TikTok has been given 24 hours to supply the chance evaluation for TikTok Lite. It has till April 26 to supply different requested info, after which the Fee mentioned it is going to analyse its reply and assess subsequent steps, reminiscent of whether or not or to not open a proper investigation.

Reached for touch upon the Fee’s RFI, a TikTok spokesperson mentioned: “Now we have already been in direct contact with the Fee concerning this product and can reply to the request for info.”

ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is one in all round two dozen bigger on-line platforms which might be topic to the strictest layer of DSA guidelines — requiring them to take steps to mitigate systemic dangers use of their platforms might trigger. Penalties for failing to adjust to the regulation can attain as much as 6% of worldwide annual turnover which might result in some hefty fines for TikTok for any confirmed compliance failures.

The broader affect of the pan-EU regulation is more likely to be on platforms’ product design decisions, with EU enforcers having powers that might doubtlessly power the reform of total enterprise fashions in the event that they’re discovered to have poisonous impacts.

TikTok is already below investigation within the EU in relation to plenty of DSA obligations, together with within the space of safety of minors and the chance administration of addictive design and dangerous content material, after the Fee introduced a proper probe again in February. However the newest RFI suggests the EU is fearful there are extra problems with concern.

It’s notably attention-grabbing to see the Fee intervening so swiftly after a tentative product launch — because the TikTok Lite app solely seems to have been reside within the two markets for a really temporary interval. The Fee says it launched this month. (And right here, for instance, is a Spanish YouTube video on the reward characteristic which was posted just below every week in the past the place the vlogger says this system for incomes cash “simply by watching movies” has solely simply been made out there, and to this point solely on some Android gadgets.)

It’s not clear whether or not TikTok carried out a DSA threat evaluation for the brand new reward program forward of launching TikTok Lite within the two EU markets. A TikTok spokesman didn’t reply after we requested about that. However the regulation’s give attention to systemic threat basically makes such a step compulsory for options which might be more likely to enchantment to minors.

TikTok did inform us it requires TikTok Lite customers to confirm that they’re 18 or older with a purpose to accumulate factors by their use of the app. Requested concerning the robustness of the age verification expertise it’s utilizing, its spokesman mentioned the processes concerned can embrace issues like “submitting a selfie with a photograph ID (e.g passport or drivers license), bank card authorisations and many others”.

Different restrictions on the reward program TikTok highlighted are a most restrict on rewards it mentioned is “roughly” equal to €1 per day. It additionally mentioned there’s a most every day video time restrict for rewards of 1 hour — so, presumably, you’ll be able to solely earn factors for one hour’s value of video watching, after which you gained’t accrue any extra factors that day.

How clearly such limits are communicated to TikTok Lite customers could also be one space of curiosity to EU enforcers as they ask the platform about its design decisions.

“VLOPs [very large online platforms] and VLOSEs [very large online search engines] are obliged to hold out threat assessments prior to deploying functionalities which might be more likely to have a vital affect on dangers to, for instance, the psychological well-being of the customers and ship this evaluation to the Fee with out undue delay,” a Fee spokesperson informed us.

Shopper teams in Europe have beforehand raised issues about numerous features of TikTok’s platform design, together with its use of digital forex to create engagement incentives. Complaints raised again in 2021 have been funnelled by the Shopper Safety Cooperation Community, with the Fee concerned in encouraging a dialogue between the 2 sides. Then, in June 2022, the process culminated in TikTok providing a sequence of commitments — together with pledging to spice up transparency round its digital cash and digital items.

Nonetheless judging by the Fee’s oversight of TikTok’s method to DSA compliance the platform could must go additional to fulfill enforcers of the rebooted EU Web rulebook, which got here absolutely into power this February — however with systemic threat parts anticipated to be revered as of late August 2023.

This report was up to date with remark from the Fee