TikTok Accused of Fueling Addiction

John Lister's picture

TikTok is under formal investigation for allegedly deliberately making its service addictive. It's the first test of how laws banning such behavior will operate.

The Chinese-owned video company is controversial on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US, many federal and state agencies ban employees from using TikTok over security concerns, with Montana even attempting to ban it from the state altogether. (Source: guardian.com)

Now the European Commission says it has enough evidence from a preliminary investigation to move to formal proceedings against the company. It involves several alleged breaches of the Digital Services Act. That's a set of obligations and restrictions on companies operating software and services with a particularly large user base, known formally as a Very Large Online Platform.

Rabbit Hole Worries

One of the key areas of investigation is whether TikTok's design and algorithms "may stimulate behavioral addictions and/or create so-called 'rabbit hole effects'." That's notable given that TikTok is largely based less around users choosing what videos to watch and more about an algorithm showing them content it thinks they will like and engage with. (Source: europa.eu)

Officials say TikTok doesn't do enough to assess the risk that this set-up may harm people's wellbeing or risk them being radicalized. For example, the algorithm could mean they are exposed to increasingly unreliable or dangerous claims, misinformation or extreme views such as support terrorism.

Child Protection Questioned

The proceedings will also explore whether TikTok is fully complying with other obligations including age verification to prevent children being exposed to inappropriate content. The European Commission also suggests the company may not have done enough to protect the privacy of children.

Other alleged failings include not producing the required publicly accessible database of who has placed what ads on the services, and not giving researchers adequate access to publicly accessible data.

At the time of writing, TikTok had not publicly responded to the European Commission's decision.

What's Your Opinion?

Should large online companies be held to higher standards or tighter restrictions than smaller ones? Are you concerned about algorithms designed to make tech services more addictive? Are the European requirements for large tech companies reasonable or too restrictive?

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Chief's picture

So, to follow this logic, if Tik-Tok is good at what it does, it attracts more viewers (or addicts).

If Tik-Tok is bad at what they do, they disappear into the bit-bin of history.


This is the conundrum: winning brings the wrath of the state which confiscates earnings; losing brings disinterest and the end of the business model.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility?
Gamble responsibly
Drink responsibly
Drive responsibly
Be responsible

Big Brother will own everything and you will own nothing and be happy.