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EU moves against TikTok over child-targeted ads

May 28, 2021

The popular video-sharing app has been asked to answer questions about hidden marketing and aggressive advertising targeting children.

The TikTok logo
The video-sharing platform TikTok is hugely popular with teens and young adultsImage: Mike Blake/REUTERS

The European Commission has given TikTok one month to respond to allegations it failed to protect children from aggressive advertising on its platform.

The EU's executive arm said Friday that the Chinese-owned video-sharing app must address the complaints, which were raised by consumer authorities in several EU member states.

The Commission said "hidden marketing, aggressive advertising techniques targeted at children, and certain contractual terms in TikTok's policies," were of "specific concern." 

It added that some terms in TikTok's "Terms of Service" could be considered misleading and confusing.

EU warns of 'risks' for vulnerable consumers

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the coronavirus pandemic had "accelerated digitalization," bringing new opportunities as well as "new risks, in particular for vulnerable consumers." 

"In the European Union, it is prohibited to target children and minors with disguised advertising such as banners in videos," he said. 

"The dialogue we are launching today should support TikTok in complying with EU rules to protect consumers.''

Young people in Germany

TikTok says it protects young users

TikTok, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, said it was ready to engage in discussions and stressed that it complies with local laws governing ads for young people.

The company has "taken a number of steps to protect our younger users, including making all under-16 accounts private-by-default, and disabling their access to direct messaging,'' TikTok's director of public policy for Europe, Caroline Greer, said in a statement.

"We have strict policies prohibiting advertising directly appealing to those under the age of digital consent,'' she added.

The social network is especially popular with teenagers and young adults who use it to post and watch short-form videos.

The Commission's request for a response from TikTok stems from a complaint lodged by the European Consumer Organization in February. The Brussels-based umbrella group accused the platform of leaving children and teens open to being targeted by hidden advertising and potentially harmful content.

Kremlin targets TikTok over critical content

nm/rt (AFP, AP)