TikTok Lite downplays ‘addictive like cigarettes’ feature for reward to watch under EU watchful eye

The EU has effectively removed a feature on TikTok that the European Digital Commissioner described as “toxic” and “as addictive as cigarettes”. Owner ByteDance said on Wednesday that TikTok Lite’s view reward feature will be discontinued. It’s been a brutal day for TikTok, as President Biden signed a bill (also on Wednesday) forcing ByteDance to sell the platform’s US operations or face a ban.

TikTok Lite, launched earlier this month in France and Spain, allows users to earn rewards by watching and liking videos. They can then exchange their points for real-world benefits like Amazon vouchers or in-app ones like TikTok’s virtual currency, which is used to tip creators. The EU Commission said the task and reward feature could encourage “addictive behaviour” in children.

“Our children are not social media savvy bunnies,” said European Commissioner Thierry Breton published on X (Twitter) on Wednesday. “I note TikTok’s decision to suspend the #TikTokLite ‘Bonus Program’ in the EU.”

However, he added a parting shot to remind ByteDance that it was not out of the question: “Cases against TikTok regarding the platform’s risk of addiction continue.”

Breton fired a warning shot at ByteDance earlier this week, saying the EU had launched a formal investigation into TikTok for breaching the Digital Services Act (DSA). The landmark legislation, passed in 2022, gives European regulators the power to impose significant changes on social media platforms to protect users.

Companies that break the rules can risk fines of up to six percent of their global revenue — enough to force compliance from even the wealthiest companies. Wednesday’s suspension marks the first concrete example of the EU using DSA enforcement powers to force significant changes to a social platform.

The official EU investigation into TikTok Lite was the second targeting the platform this year. An earlier case, started in February, opened proceedings against TikTok and Meta for their treatment of the privacy and safety of minors. The Guardian notes that both cases remain active.

“TikTok is always keen to engage constructively with the EU Commission and other regulators,” Policy Europe X platform account published on Wednesday. “Therefore, we are voluntarily suspending the rewards features on TikTok Lite while we address the concerns you have raised.”

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