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25 June, 2024
 
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EU cracks down on TikTok lite over child addition concerns

European Commission takes aim at TikTok's new rewards feature, demanding safeguards amid growing mental health worries

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European digital regulators are taking a stern stance against TikTok's latest feature, which rewards users for engaging with content, citing concerns over addiction, especially among children. The European Commission announced formal proceedings against TikTok Lite, a version of the app designed to use less data, launched in Spain and France in March.

A prominent aspect of the new app is its "Task and Rewards" program, allowing users aged 18 and above to accumulate points by daily logins, video consumption, post likes, and inviting friends. Users on the Lite app can earn points by watching videos for up to 85 minutes daily, which can be exchanged for rewards like Amazon vouchers, gift cards, or TikTok coins, an internal currency for gifting streamers.

However, the commission has raised concerns about TikTok's failure to adequately restrict minors' access to the rewards feature, fearing it could foster addiction. Thierry Breton, EU's internal market commissioner, likened TikTok 'Lite' to potentially being as addictive as 'light' cigarettes.

TikTok has until Wednesday to present its defense, with the commission considering suspension of the rewards program in the EU. Additionally, TikTok was instructed to provide a risk assessment of its spinoff app, which it failed to submit by the original deadline of April 18, drawing further criticism.

Breton warned of potential interim measures, including suspension of the rewards program, unless TikTok furnishes convincing evidence of safety. In response, TikTok expressed disappointment with the decision, asserting that the rewards hub is inaccessible to those under 18 and imposes daily video watch limits.

The commission's primary concern lies with the mental health implications for young TikTok users, fearing that the platform's constant barrage of short, fast-paced videos could exacerbate anxiety, depression, and addiction among children, echoing similar worries globally, including discussions in the US about a potential TikTok ban.

This crackdown is part of the EU's new Digital Services Act, compelling internet companies to regulate online content. TikTok, classified as one of 22 "Very Large Online Platforms," faces stringent regulations under the DSA due to its extensive user base. Despite facing mounting regulatory challenges, TikTok has experienced substantial revenue growth in Europe, with annual revenue soaring from $990 million to $2.6 billion in 2022, according to its latest report.

[Source: Business Insider]

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