European Commission Wants to Discuss Young User Safety With TikTok

On Friday, the European Commission (EC) and the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Network announced that they have engaged TikTok in a formal dialogue regarding its commercial practices and policies. The EC’s press release noted that the move follows an alert issued by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) earlier this year about TikTok’s failure to uphold EU consumer rights.

The EC reported that specific areas of concern include subliminal marketing, aggressive advertising techniques targeting children, and certain terms in TikTok’s policies that consumers may find misleading and confusing. TikTok has a month to reply and engage with the EC and the CPC, co-led by the Swedish Consumer Agency and the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the EC announcement said.

“The current pandemic has further accelerated digitalisation. This has brought new opportunities but it has also created new risks, in particular for vulnerable consumers,” Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said in a statement. “In the European Union, it is prohibited to target children and minors with disguised advertising such as banners in videos. The dialogue we are launching today should support TikTok in complying with EU rules to protect consumers.”

According to a TechCrunch article by reporter Natasha Lomas, the announcement comes after the BEUC issued a report in February flagging several of TikTok’s policies and practices. Additionally, the consumer protection organization highlighted the possibility that child users could be exposed to inappropriate content on the video sharing platform.

Complaints streamed in simultaneously from more than dozen EU member states, pressing national authorities to investigate TikTok’s conduct, TechCrunch explained. While TikTok faces questions on a number of fronts, the social media platform has not yet been subject to a formal EC enforcement procedure, a move the BEUC has reportedly questioned.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch by TikTok, the company said that it is speaking with European authorities as a part of its ongoing effort to engage with stakeholders. TikTok noted that it has already put several measures in place to protect younger users, including making all under-16 accounts private-by-default and disabling their access to direct messaging.