A gathering between TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, and senior European Union lawmakers which passed off at this time noticed the video sharing platform’s chief govt quizzed on a variety of matters — together with its preparations to adjust to incoming pan-EU guidelines centered on content material governance and security (aka the Digital Companies Act; or DSA), and its method to present guidelines on privateness and information safety (together with the Common Information Safety Regulation).
Different matters the EU stated its commissioners introduced up within the conferences with Chew included baby security, Russian disinformation and the transparency of paid political content material.
TikTok has confronted a variety of regulatory scrutiny throughout the bloc in recent times, together with complaints from shopper safety authorities and plenty of interventions by information safety authorities — in addition to having two open GDPR enquiries in Eire (one into TikTok’s processing of kids’s information; and one other into its information transfers to China), which started in 2021.
In recent times it has additionally sought to answer regional considerations about information safety by opening one in all its so-called “transparency and accountability facilities” to host guests from the bloc and subject their questions. Plus it’s enterprise a knowledge localization undertaking — that can see EU customers’ info saved in a Dublin based mostly information middle — as one other response to information safety and safety considerations (though that undertaking has confronted delays and may’t solely repair the information switch difficulty since TikTok has admitted some non-EU-based staffers can entry EU person information).
Extra regulatory scrutiny is coming as this yr TikTok may additionally face direct oversight by the European Fee itself — if it’s deemed to fulfill “gatekeeper” standards below the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The DMA, which got here into power in the beginning of November and is ready to begin to apply from early Could, is meant to complement conventional ‘after the very fact of abuse’ antitrust regulation by making use of a proactive set of operational ‘dos and don’ts’ to essentially the most highly effective, intermediating platforms and can put some onerous limits on anti-competitive practices like self-preferencing (in addition to introducing some agency necessities in areas like interoperability and information portability). So EU compliance necessities for platforms that fall below the DMA regime will step up significantly.
Whereas it’s not but confirmed whether or not TikTok will likely be designated a core platform service topic to the DMA, there’s little question that fostering a stable working relationship with the bloc’s govt is in its strategic pursuits — because the Fee will likely be making designations and overseeing compliance for each the DMA and for a layer of extra obligations that can apply to a subset of bigger platforms (so known as VLOPs) below the DSA — a class TikTok is nearly sure to fall into (even when it avoids being designated a DMA gatekeeper).
The DSA additionally entered into power final November however the bulk of provisions received’t apply earlier than February 2024. Nevertheless VLOPs have a shorter implementation interval — with compliance anticipated to be up and working later this yr; platforms are given 4 months for implementation after a VLOP designation is made (so by mid yr the DSA is prone to be power for a primary wave of VLOPs).
Speaking of strategic pursuits, the chaos of Elon Musk’s erratic management of rival social community Twitter additionally arguably creates a possibility for TikTok to current a extra cooperative face to the Fee — and search to win associates (or not less than keep away from making enemies) amongst commissioners who’re gaining highly effective new oversight capabilities (and enforcement powers) atop digital platforms this yr.
It’s clear the Fee is eating out on the picture alternatives of a Massive Tech CEO coming in particular person to Brussels to press commissioner flesh.
In an announcement following a gathering between TikTok’s CEO and the EU’s EVP and head of digital technique, Margrethe Vestager, the Fee stated:
The target of the assembly with TikTok was to overview how the corporate is getting ready for complying with its obligations below the European Fee’s regulation, specifically the Digital Companies Act (DSA) and presumably below the Digital Markets Act (DMA). On the assembly the events additionally mentioned GDPR and issues of privateness and information switch obligations with a reference to the current press reporting on aggressive information harvesting and surveillance within the US.
The EU’s VP for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, additionally had a face-to-face assembly with Chew — and the EU stated she requested about a number of considerations, together with the safety of non-public information of Europeans and steps TikTok is taking to handle disinformation on its platform, in addition to elevating a current controversy when TikTok was accused of utilizing the information of journalists to attempt to establish the supply of inner leaks.
In a read-out of the assembly, the EU stated Jourová “appreciated” the truth that TikTok joined the bloc’s Code of Observe on Disinformation (2020) and the way it “swiftly carried out EU sanctions towards Russian propaganda shops”, because it put it.
(One wonders if this taste of public reward by the EU can be a delicate sideswipe at Musk and Twitter — given some blatant snubs the latter has doled out to Brussels in current months, such because the shuttering of its native coverage workplace.)
The EU’s learn out additionally notes that it acknowledges TikTok “recognises that non-EU state actors attempt to manipulate the content material on the platform to unfold disinformation and places efforts to handle this difficulty”, including the corporate knowledgeable it it’s investing in Ukraine and can ship an in depth report below the Disinformation Code.
(That may make fascinating studying — given a examine final spring discovered Russian state propaganda to be flourishing on TikTok regardless of a claimed ban on uploads.)
After being questioned by Jourová in regards to the awkward difficulty of the (ab)use of the information of journalists to attempt to establish inner leakers, the EU stated Chew confirmed this was unsuitable and informed it the individuals accountable for the incident not work for the corporate. (And there’s additionally a tacit distinction with the EU just lately warning Musk in regards to the arbitrary suspension of journalists who had been reporting on Musk’s resolution making at Twitter.)
Per the EU, the TikTok CEO additionally mentioned TikTok’s efforts round GDPR compliance — and talked about its funding in content material moderation practices, which he informed it purpose to restrict the impact of hate speech and different “poisonous content material”.
Chew additionally used the chance of facetime with EU commissioners to assert TikTok’s “mission is to encourage creativity and produce pleasure” — slightly than, y’know, dwelling on awkward accusations (and/or ethical panic) that the platform is a societal manipulation undertaking/’software of cultural management’ focused as Western youngsters and with authoritarian hyperlinks to the Chinese language state…
In an announcement after the assembly, Jourová prevented direct reference to such considerations — opting as a substitute for extra diplomatic language in regards to the want for TikTok to ‘regain regulatory belief’:
I rely on TikTok to completely execute its commitments to go the additional mile in respecting EU regulation and regaining belief of European regulators. There can’t be any doubt that information of customers in Europe are protected and never uncovered to unlawful entry from third-country authorities. It is vital for TikTok and different platforms to swiftly prepare for compliance with the brand new EU digital rulebook, the Digital Companies Act and the Digital Markets Act. I’m additionally wanting ahead to seeing the primary report below the brand new anti-disinformation Code to be delivered by the tip of January. Transparency will likely be a key factor on this regard.
The 2 present GDPR probes of TikTok in Eire stay ongoing — with, per the regulator, the prospect of the youngsters’s information enquiry being wrapped up by (or earlier than) the center of this yr (relying on how shortly disputes between DPAs may be settled). Whereas the China information transfers enquiry may additionally attain a call round mid yr — however, once more, we perceive there are a number of things in play that might spin out the method so a remaining resolution won’t seem till the tip of the yr.
TikTok was contacted for its view on the EU conferences however on the time of writing the corporate had not responded.