Europe gives TikTok 24 hours to explain 'addictive and toxic' new app

Commissioner Thierry Breton likens click-to-earn version to cigarettes

The European Commission on Wednesday gave TikTok 24 hours to explain the risk assessment procedures it used before launching a version of the made-in-China app that rewards users for using it in certain ways.

The app is called TikTok Lite and offers the chance to "to complete challenging tasks and earn great rewards!"

Tasks include watching vids, liking content, or following other users. Rewards include Amazon vouchers, PayPal gift cards, or TikTok's in-app currency that can be used to tip other members.

The Google Play store rates the app as suitable for teens, and TikTok's description of the software emphasizes that it is a "smaller app" that requires "less data usage" – just the ticket for users with modest phones and download allowances.

TikTok Lite was launched years ago in Asia, but debuted in France and Spain this month – without much fanfare.

It soon drew the attention of European commissioner for internal markets Thierry Breton, who asked "Is social media 'lite' as addictive and toxic as cigarettes 'light'?"

Tell us what you really think next time, will you Thierry?

The commissioner also promised to "spare no effort to protect minors" using the EU's Digital Services Act (DSA).

That law was used to compel TikTok to explain how it considered risks its Lite app poses,

The Commission wants to understand "the potential impact of the new 'Task and Reward Lite' program on the protection of minors, as well as on the mental health of users, in particular in relation to the potential stimulation of addictive behavior." Also on the to-do list handed to TikTok is information about the measures the service adopted to mitigate such systemic risks.

TikTok has reportedly said it will comply with the overnight deadline to provide its risk assessment of the Lite app, and the April 26 deadline for the other info outlined above. Which is sensible, given the DSA allows for colossal fines.

The debut of TikTok Lite adds to the app's European woes, which have already seen the EU investigate whether the outfit is meeting its obligations to operate with transparency and to protect minors."

The made-in-China app is in even deeper trouble in the US, where a bill compelling its divestment to a non-Chinese entity passed the House of Representatives before stalling in the Senate – possibly to allow arrangements to be made that would not result in the app becoming unavailable stateside.

Elon Musk may just have complicated matters too, as is his wont. On Wednesday he posted a poll asking if he should "Bring back Vine?"

Vine was a short video-sharing app run by Twitter that gathered 200 million users before the avian social network closed it in 2016 – the same year TikTok came to America.

TikTok now has over one billion monthly users, and X – as Twitter is now known – has around half a billion, according to Musk. ®

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