EU Launches Probe into TikTok Lite App Over Child Safety Concerns

The European Union has initiated an investigation into TikTok’s spinoff Lite app, citing concerns over its potential harm to users’ mental health, particularly minors.

The move comes amid mounting worries about the addictive nature of digital platforms and their impact on vulnerable demographics.

TikTok Lite, introduced in France and Spain in March, allows users aged 18 and above to earn points by watching and liking videos, which can then be exchanged for rewards such as vouchers or gift cards.

However, the European Commission has expressed reservations about the app’s impact on users’ well-being, particularly its potential to cause “serious damage” to mental health.

Designed as a lighter version of the popular TikTok app, TikTok Lite is tailored to function efficiently on devices with limited memory and slower internet connections.

Despite its intended optimizations, the app has drawn scrutiny from regulatory authorities for its perceived risks, prompting the EU to launch a formal investigation.

The European Commission has given TikTok until Tuesday to provide a risk assessment for the Lite app, failing which it threatens to impose interim measures, including suspending the rewards program within the European Union pending a safety assessment.

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, faces potential fines of up to one percent of its total annual income or its global turnover if it fails to comply with regulatory requirements.

In response to the EU’s probe, TikTok has asserted that the rewards hub feature of TikTok Lite is not accessible to minors, emphasizing the platform’s commitment to user safety.

However, the commission remains unconvinced and has signaled its readiness to take decisive action if TikTok fails to address its concerns adequately.

The investigation into TikTok Lite represents the EU’s second probe against the platform under the Digital Services Act (DSA), a comprehensive regulatory framework aimed at ensuring greater accountability and transparency in the digital sphere.

Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s top tech enforcer, likened TikTok Lite to potentially harmful products like “cigarettes ‘light’,” underscoring the gravity of the issue.

The EU’s stance reflects broader efforts to hold digital platforms accountable for their content and practices, particularly concerning the protection of minors online.

Under the DSA, companies like TikTok are subject to stringent regulations and face significant penalties for non-compliance, including fines of up to six percent of their global annual revenues.

While TikTok contends with regulatory scrutiny in Europe, it also faces challenges in other jurisdictions, including the United States, where legislative measures have been proposed to compel TikTok to divest from ByteDance or risk a nationwide ban.

As regulatory pressure mounts on tech giants worldwide, the outcome of these investigations will shape the future landscape of digital governance and user protection.

Jessica Bayley

Jessica Bayley is an international author and journalist. She covers global affairs, hard news, lifestyle, politics, technology and is also the author of "The Ladies of Belgium."