May 29, 2024
  • The EU has launched a new investigation into TikTok and has decided to ban its reward program unless it submits a risk assessment report for the tool.
  • The reward program allows users to earn points in exchange for watching and liking TikTok videos. These points can then be exchanged for vouchers and gift cards.
  • TikTok is unhappy with this decision. Since the tool is only available to those above 18 and the tasks have an upper limit, it doesn’t think it’s breaking any law.

EU Launches Probe into TikTok Lite’s Addictive Reward Program

The EU has launched a probe into TikTok Lite and has decided to suspend its reward program over its addictive nature. If the suspension goes through, it will last for at least 60 days and can be repeatedly renewed.

TikTok Lite was introduced in France and Spain this March. It’s a smaller version of the main TikTok app and is designed to take up less space and run smoothly even on a slower internet connection.

The reward program in question is a feature in the TikTok Lite app that allows you to earn points in exchange for watching and liking TikTok videos.

Rewards are also given out if a user logs in for 10 days continuously. These points can then be exchanged for vouchers and gift cards directly through the app.

💡Read more: The TikTok Lite app sounds and works exactly like the Facebook Lite app, which is also a mini version of the main Facebook app. However, this isn’t the only instance where TikTok has copied a successful competitor strategy.

It recently announced a dedicated photo-sharing app TikTok Notes that will compete directly with Instagram. It’s set to be a separate app and will bring TikTok’s total tally of apps to 3.

What Do Both Parties Have to Say about the Issue?

The commission believes that TikTok launched TikTok Lite without much risk assessment, especially because of its addictive nature.

“We suspect TikTok ‘Lite’ could be as toxic and addictive as cigarettes ‘light’.” – Thierry Breton, EU’s top tech enforcer

Unless the company can come up with solid proof of TikTok Lite’s safety within the stipulated deadline, it will have no choice but to impose the measures listed under the Digital Services Act (DSA).

TikTok, on the other hand, is very disappointed with this news. A TikTok spokesperson remarked that this feature is only available to those over 18. This means that only adults who can make informed decisions will be able to access this feature—not young users.

Also, there’s an upper limit of 60 to 85 minutes per day on video-watching tasks. TikTok says that this should be proof enough that the reward program’s intentions isn’t to get people addicted to the app.

In other news: Iowa files accuse TikTok of misleading parents about their children’s access to inappropriate content.

What Happens Now?

The reason EU had to launch a probe is that TikTok failed to submit the risk assessment report for TikTok Lite by the given deadline, which was April 18.

In the last 40+ requests for information sent by the commission, this is the first time a company failed to meet the deadline. A similar incident transpired in December last year when TikTok provided false information to the UK communications regulator Ofcom, which resulted in an investigation.

Now, TikTok has until Tuesday to hand in the report and until Wednesday to present a formal defense against the commission’s decision.

If TikTok fails to meet the new deadlines, the following actions can be taken:

  • Interim measures will be imposed on the app, which would include suspending the ‘task and reward’ feature altogether until the report is submitted.
  • The commission may charge a fine of 1% of the company’s global annual revenue along with periodic fines of 5% of average daily income.

In a separate investigation, TikTok has also been asked what steps it’s taking to reduce ‘systemic risks’ on the Lite app. It has until May 3 to respond to this query.

TikTok’s Second Probe under the DSA

This is the second time the EU has launched an investigation into TikTok. The February 2024 investigation was over alleged violations of TikTok’s obligation to protect minors online and issues related to advertising transparency.

  • The reason why TikTok is under such heavy scrutiny from the EU is that it has been labeled ‘a very large online platform,’ termed as a ‘gatekeeper’ under the DSA.
  • This means it has more than 45 million users per month and hence will have to follow some extra rules to create a safe online space for its users.

And if it fails to abide by these rules, the penalty could be increased up to 6% of its global annual revenue. Repeat offenses might also lead to the app getting banned in all 27 countries in the EU.

However, TikTok in November 2023 had challenged its ‘gatekeeper’ status under the DSA, although with no results.

Problems only seem to pining on for TikTok. Only yesterday, US regulators passed a second bill against TikTok that more or less confirms its ban in the US unless it cuts its ties with its parent company ByteDance within 9 months.

However, it won’t be easy to do so, as several public factions in America as well as China will oppose the sale. Nervous times ahead for TikTok.

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