EU warns TikTok to comply with new strict digital rules, worried how easy it is to access dangerous content

TikTok has been trying desperately to pacify the EU that they are taking privacy seriously and will work closely with officials to safeguard users. TikTok risks getting banned in the EU as well as the US. Image Credit: AFP

European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton spoke via video chat with Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok which is increasingly coming under the attention of Western authorities due to concerns about data privacy, cybersecurity, and false information.

The head of digital policy for the European Union reminded TikTok’s CEO on Thursday that the social media app must comply with strict new regulations for online platforms that will go into force later this year.

Breton and Chew discussed the company’s plans to comply with the bloc’s Digital Services Act, which is set to take effect for the biggest online companies in September. The EU hopes that With the help of the act’s broad regulations, platforms will be forced to lessen dangerous online material and address online threats in a timely manner.

“With younger audiences comes greater responsibility,” Breton said, according to a readout of the call. “It is not acceptable that behind seemingly fun and harmless features, it takes users seconds to access harmful and sometimes even life-threatening content.”

Breton continued by saying TikTok has a “particular obligation” to make sure its content is secure given the millions of young users it has in Europe.

TikTok is incredibly popular among young people in Europe, but because it is owned by China, there are concerns that the CCP may use it to collect user data or spread false information or pro-China narratives. ByteDance, a Chinese business that relocated its headquarters to Singapore in 2020, is the owner of TikTok.

Shou met with four senior EU executive Commission officials earlier this month in Brussels to address issues ranging from kid safety to inquiries into user data exports to China. The military and Congress in the US have outlawed the TikTok app on smartphones that are provided by the government in at least 22 states.

Breton stated that he is particularly concerned about claims that TikTok is violating the stringent privacy laws of the 27-nation bloc by allegedly spying on journalists and sending tonnes of user data outside of Europe.

Breton said that he “explicitly conveyed” to Shou that TikTok must “boost up efforts to comply” with EU laws on copyright, data protection, and the Digital Services Act, which includes provisions for harsh fines or even an EU ban for repeat offences that endanger people’s lives or safety.

“We will not hesitate to adopt the full scope of sanctions to protect our citizens if audits do not show full compliance,” he said.