TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd (字節跳動) faces the threat of hefty fines as the EU prepares a probe under its strict new content moderation rules over concerns of risks to minors.
The European Commission is to open an investigation into TikTok under the bloc’s new Digital Services Act (DSA) in the coming weeks over concerns that changes the firm made to comply with the new regulation are not enough to protect underage users, people familiar with the matter said.
This comes as ByteDance lost an EU court bid to suspend a decision by regulators to force the video-sharing social-media platform to comply with the bloc’s flagship digital antitrust rules.
The EU’s General Court said ByteDance “has failed to demonstrate the urgency required for an interim order in order to avoid serious and irreparable damage” in an order published on Friday.
The Chinese-owned firm last year asked for interim measures alongside its appeal of the EU’s decision to put TiKTok within the scope of DSA.
If granted, this would have halted the strict scrutiny of TikTok until the outcome of the appeal.
“While we are disappointed with the decision, we look forward to having the substance of our case heard on an expedited basis,” a spokesperson for TikTok said.
The DSA gives regulators unprecedented powers to take action against major tech companies for how they handle content on their platforms. Companies face fines of as much as 6 percent of annual sales, or even risk being banned from the EU if they repeatedly break the rules.
EU regulators in December last year opened their first formal probe under the DSA into Elon Musk’s X to establish possible breaches in the way the platform handles illegal content and disinformation.
The bloc last year singled out 19 online platforms and search engines, including X, Meta Platforms Inc and Alphabet Inc, as very large — those with more than 45 million monthly active users in Europe — and has been quizzing them for information. The EU has since also added three porn sites.
The EU has sent several requests for information to TikTok since the platform was designated, enquiring among others about what steps it has taken to protect minors, especially regarding the risks to mental health and physical health, and how its services are used by children.
More investigations are likely to be added as the EU has been quizzing all designated firms for more information over the last few months. Similar to TikTok, Meta’s Instagram has also been quizzed by the EU on what changes it’s made to comply with the new rules and to assess and mitigate risks facing its underage users.
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