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EU Policy. TikTok subject to second DSA investigation over Lite app, faces suspension

A visitor makes a photo at the TikTok exhibition stands at the Gamescom computer gaming fair in Cologne.
A visitor makes a photo at the TikTok exhibition stands at the Gamescom computer gaming fair in Cologne. Copyright Martin Meissner/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Martin Meissner/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Cynthia Kroet
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The video sharing platform needs to provide a risk assessment by tomorrow.

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TikTok is subject to a second probe under the Digital Services Act (DSA) over the launch of its TikTok Lite app in France and Spain, the European Commission said today (22 April). The Commission will investigate whether TikTok’s policy is in line with the DSA and if it conducted a risk assessment prior to rolling out the functions, and whether it took measures to mitigate the risks.

Through TikTok Lite, users over 18 years old can earn points under a so-called “Reward Program”, while performing certain tasks on the app, such as watching videos, liking content, following creators or inviting friends to join. These points can be exchanged for rewards, such as Amazon vouchers, gift cards via PayPal or TikTok's coins currency.

TikTok also received a formal request for information, based on a Commission decision, after it failed to provide a reply to an earlier request for information on 17 April. The Commission had quizzed the social media about its potential impact on the mental health of users, in particular in relation to the potential stimulation of addictive behaviour.

TikTok now has until 23 April to submit the risk assessment report to the Commission and until 3 May to provide the other information requested. If TikTok fails to reply on time, the EU executive could issue a penalty worth up to 1% of the company’s total annual income or worldwide turnover and periodic penalties worth up to 5 % of the provider's average daily income or worldwide annual turnover.

The EU executive also informed the platform about its intention to impose interim measures to suspend the Lite rewards programme in the EU pending the assessment of its safety. But before formally adopting the suspension, TikTok has been given until 24 April to reply to the Commission with its defence.

“We opened a first DSA non-compliance case back in February. While this first case is ongoing, TikTok chose to launch TikTok Lite, which under the laudable promise of letting you watch videos without taking up too much network capacity, creates financial incentives for spending more time on your phone. We suspect TikTok 'Lite' could be as toxic and addictive as cigarettes 'light',” EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement.

TikTok said in a statement to be "disappointed with this decision."

"The TikTok Lite rewards hub is not available to under 18s, and there is a daily limit on video watch tasks. We will continue discussions with the Commission," the spokesperson said. 

TikTok, owned by Chinese ByteDance, was designated as a Very Large Online Platform under the DSA on 25 April 2023 and as of August last year, it has been subject to comply with the legal obligations.

This story has been updated to add a comment from TikTok.

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