The European Commission has launched a formal investigation into ByteDance-owned TikTok‘s compliance with its Digital Services Act (DSA), the EU’s online governance and content moderation framework.

The investigation will centre on various aspects, including the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, and the management of addictive design and harmful content, according to a press release from the Commission.

The DSA, which came into effect broadly for numerous platforms and services on Saturday (17 February, 2024), imposes additional requirements on larger platforms like TikTok.

These requirements encompass areas such as algorithmic transparency and systemic risk, forming the basis for TikTok’s current investigation.

Penalties for confirmed DSA breaches can reach up to 6% of the company’s global annual turnover.

The investigation follows months of information gathering, including requests for information from TikTok on child protection and disinformation risks.

TikTok claimed it is committed to working with experts and the industry to ensure user safety. The company confirmed receipt of the Commission’s document outlining the investigation and expresses readiness to explain its efforts in detail.

The Commission’s investigation will delve into suspected breaches related to TikTok’s systemic risks, scrutinising the potential negative effects which stem from its design, including its algorithm.

Concerns about TikTok’s user experience stimulating behavioural addictions and creating ‘rabbit hole effects’ are also on the EU’s radar.

The investigation will assess the effectiveness of TikTok’s age verification tools for protecting minors from inappropriate content.

TikTok has faced particularly heavy scrutiny in the US. In May 2023, Montana became the first US state to completely ban the app for citizens.

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Laura Petrone, analyst at research and analysis company GlobalData, commented that TikTok has been trying to escape bans, but political pressure is mounting.

“Like the EU, the biggest concern for the US is that TikTok could leak Americans’ personal data to China,” Petrone said.

“US national security officials and some lawmakers say TikTok’s operations in the US pose a security risk, arguing that the Communist Party of China can use the app to surveil Americans and various government institutions,” she added.