3 min

TikTok finds itself once again in the crosshairs of the European Commission. The governing body is launching a formal investigation into the launch of TikTok Lite in France and Spain due to concerns about the ‘Task and Reward Program’ that is part of this app. This allows users to earn rewards by performing tasks on the platform.

The Commission deems this practice to be possibly addictive, especially among young people. In doing so, owner ByteDance is violating provisions in the Digital Services Act (DSA), which could temporarily ban the rewards program throughout the European Union (EU) and result in heavy fines.

TikTok Lite rewards users for watching certain videos, following accounts, and inviting their contacts to use the app as well. The rewards can include Amazon vouchers, PayPal gift cards or TikTok Coins, the virtual currency you usually have to buy with real money to purchase virtual gifts. European Commissioner Thierry Breton denounces financially rewarding extra screen time and compares it to ‘light’ cigarettes. “We suspect TikTok ‘Lite’ could be as toxic and addictive.”

ByteDance failed to provide risk assessment

Although the functionality is intended only for adults, it would be easy to bypass the age verification. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, is therefore ‘not amused’ that TikTok Lite has been released while a mandatory risk analysis has not been delivered by the specified deadline.

According to the DSA, such an analysis is mandatory for major social platform providers. As a result, the Commission is opening a new investigation into the company. This is TikTok’s second rap on the knuckles after it was previously fined 345 million euros over privacy issues.

Tip: EU calls Meta and TikTok to account in the fight against fake news

The European Commission (EC) wants information about the risks of the reward system by Wednesday. ByteDance has until May 3 to provide additional information on the measures it has taken to minimize potential risks. Pending delivery of the documentation, the European Commission may decide to suspend the reward program in TikTok Lite.

In addition, if ByteDance fails to comply with the EC’s demands, it could face fines of up to 1 percent of its revenue, as well as periodic additional penalties of up to 5 percent of its average daily revenue.

TikTok under fire in the U.S. as well

There are also concerns in the U.S. about the video app, particularly how it could indirectly allow the Chinese government to influence public opinion and obtain information about U.S. citizens. The US House of Representatives passed legislation last weekend enforcing the sale of TikTok properties within the US. If the Senate approves this bill, TikTok owner ByteDance must sell its U.S. operations within a year or risk a ban -a first for the U.S. government.

TikTok is preparing for a legal battle to challenge the legislation if it actually goes into effect. It has previously done so successfully by invoking the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which enshrines the right to free speech. Among other things, TikTok used this to overturn a ban in the state of Montana even before it went into effect.

Former President Donald Trump wanted to force the sale of TikTok through an executive order, but the court put a stop to that, too. The administration of his successor Joe Biden decided to forgo such a legal battle.

Last weekend’s new bill also has yet to be approved by the Senate, which had previously rejected it. The bill has now been repackaged into a series of other proposals, including support for Ukraine and Israel. This would make rejecting it more difficult, which is at least the idea.

Read also: TikTok tries to charm Europe with 12 billion for local datacenters