TikTok responds to EU ultimatum over new rewards-for-views app

TikTok Lite had its European launch in France and Spain this month.

0

TikTok responds to EU ultimatum over new rewards-for-views appA European Commission spokesman on Tuesday confirmed it received a reply from TikTok to provide within 24 hours an assessment of mental health risks related to its new app, TikTok Lite.

According to officials, Monday’s legally-binding order concerning the new app’s rewards scheme, which allows users to collect points by watching videos and exchange them for things of value, such as Amazon vouchers

The commission wants to know how the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform assessed the addictiveness and mental health risks of the scheme, particularly for children, prior to launch.

EU leaders meet to discuss Israel-Iran tensions, Ukraine war

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) requires large platforms to assess and mitigate such risks.

“We can confirm that we received a reply from TikTok,” a commission spokesman said . He said the EU executive will now “assess the response and decide on potential next steps.”

The commission initially requested the information on April 17, with a non-binding deadline the following day.

The Commission’s officials said TikTok responded to that request by telling them it had carried out a risk assessment, but that it could not share the document. The commission then followed-up with a binding order on Monday.

A TikTok spokeswoman told dpa that this was because the company had asked the commission for more time.

In a statement, the company said TikTok Lite’s rewards scheme is not available to minors, and has a daily limit on the number of videos that can be watched for a reward.

TikTok Lite had its European launch in France and Spain this month.

TikTok has until Wednesday to defend the rewards programme, or it could be suspended as early as Thursday 25 April.

 

TikTok told the BBC it was disappointed with the decision.

“We stand ready to trigger… interim measures including the suspension of the TikTok Lite reward programme,” said European Commissioner Thierry Breton in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

In addition, the Commission has opened formal proceedings against the social media company to assess whether it has broken EU law.

Under EU law which came into force last year, large platforms like TikTok have to produce a risk assessment before they make large changes to their products.

The Commission asked for TikTok’s risk assessment into the Task & Rewards programme last week, but says the social media company failed to submit it in time.

It has said that the system risks “serious damage for the mental health of users”.

 

TikTok Lite

TikTok launched its “Task and Rewards” programme last week in France and Spain.

It is a new feature on TikTok Lite, a slimmed-down version of the main social media app, which uses less data and space on users’ phones.

Under the programme, users can earn the equivalent of a few pence per day for watching videos and engaging on the app.

The Commission is investigating whether this could have negative effects on the mental health of users, including children, “especially as a result of the new feature stimulating addictive behaviour”.

TikTok says rewards are only open to people over the age of 18, and tools are in place to verify their ages.

But the Commission suspects a “lack of effective age verification mechanisms”.

TikTok has no plans to roll the feature out beyond France and Spain as it stands. It is also available in some countries in southeast Asia.

This is the second formal investigation into TikTok launched in the EU.

In February, the Commission opened formal proceedings against the social media company, investigating whether it broke rules around data protection, protection for children and policing harmful content.

At the time, TikTok said it would cooperate with the investigation and continued to work with experts in online safety.

Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, companies can be fined up to 6% of global revenue.

In a statement issued to the BBC, a TikTok spokesperson said: “We are 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.”

 

Credit: NAN/DPA/BBC