October 12, 2023

EU warns TikTok over ‘illegal content and disinformation’

EU warns TikTok over 'illegal content and disinformation'

The EU’s top tech enforcer, Commissioner Thierry Breton, warned TikTok on Thursday over “illegal content and disinformation” on its platform, following the bloody attack by Hamas in Israel.

The alert, and a demand that Chinese-owned TikTok respond within 24 hours with details on how it is curbing online disinformation, mirrored similar warnings Breton issued this week to X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook parent Meta.

“Given that your platform is extensively used by children and teenagers, you have a particular obligation to protect them from violent content depicting hostage taking and other graphic videos which are reportedly widely circulating on your platform, without appropriate safeguards,” Breton said in a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

Breton stressed that TikTok and other large online platforms were subject to the EU’s new Digital Services Act (DSA), legislation that came in two months ago that requires them to crack down on content deemed illegal under EU law or laws of individual EU countries.

Violations of the DSA can be met with mandatory remedial measures to halt such content, or fines that could go up to six percent of a company’s global turnover, or potentially even steps to ban the platform from Europe.

As with his letters to X owner Elon Musk and Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, Breton told Chew his request was urgent and required a response “within the next 24 hours”.

The full text of the letter was posted on Breton’s account on X, and a new one he opened this week on X rival Bluesky.

According to the respected online verification, investigation and debunking website Bellingcat, misinformation and disinformation related to Hamas’s attack in Israel last weekend has surged.

It documented examples of false or misleading videos being posted on X, TikTok and other platforms.

It found several such videos on the social media network, Telegram, which is not yet subject to the DSA but will be when smaller platforms get caught in its net from February.