TikTok has agreed to let users report ads that could “push or trick children into purchasing goods or services,” according to the European Commission.
The Commission opened a case with TikTok after a February 2021 complaint from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), which “raised the alarm regarding certain problematic practices of TikTok allegedly breaching EU consumer rules,” the Commission said in a statement posted today.
Per Reuters, BEUC’s complaint focused on allegations that TikTok didn’t do enough to protect young users from deceptive advertising or inappropriate content.
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The Commission says that in response to BEUC’s allegations, it—along with a network of national consumer protection authorities and officials in Ireland and Sweden—“launched a dialogue with TikTok” to discuss what it could do to avoid potential punitive action.
European Commission cases can result in hefty fees for platforms found to be violating the European Union’s swath of internet-related policies (for example, YouTube’s parent Alphabet is negotiating with the Commission to avoid a fine that could reportedly amount to as much as 10% of its global annual revenue).
But TikTok has avoided penalties by agreeing to a handful of changes, including the aforementioned new function allowing users to flag ads aimed at kids.
Per the Commission, TikTok has also agreed to:
- add a way for users to report branded content that isn’t properly labeled as branded content
- highlight branded content with a new label the Commission says will be vetted for effectiveness by a third party
- add a toggle that prompts creators to use that label when they draft content with keywords like “#ad” or “#sponsored”
- add a written policy explicitly banning branded content that promotes “inappropriate products and services, such as alcohol, ‘get rich quick’ schemes and cigarettes
- implement a policy where users with more than 10,000 followers will have their content reviewed by TikTok for adherence to its branded content policies and community guidelines (it’s not clear if this is pre-publication or post-publication)
- add policies about its on-platform currency coins and user rewards clarifying how to buy/get and use them, with more information about how much they cost in actual money
- and add a coins purchase history, and the ability for users to refund coin purchases within 14 days
In a statement, Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said the European Commission will “continue to monitor the situation in the future, paying particular attention to the effects on young users.”
“All social media platforms are required to play by the rules and make sure that consumers can easily identify commercial content, including when promoted by influencers,” Reynders said. “We welcome TikTok’s commitment for more transparency in the way it operates its business activity.”