Italy Fines TikTok $11 Million For Failing to Protect Minors

Italy’s competition authority has fined TikTok €10 million ($11 million) for failing to control the spread of content that it said threatened the safety of minors and other vulnerable people.

The antitrust agency, AGCM, said Thursday that TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, had failed to take into account the specific vulnerabilities of adolescents using its platform, such as a tendency toward copying group behaviors.

The watchdog announced an investigation into TikTok’s content moderation practices last March.
In a statement Thursday, it said the video-sharing platform “has not taken adequate measures to avoid the spread of (harmful) content,” adding that its algorithms meant such content could be “systematically re-proposed to users.”

An example of harmful content mentioned by the AGCM is what is known as the “French scar” trend, which involved TikTok users pinching their own cheeks to leave a lasting bruise.

A TikTok spokesperson told CNN that it disagreed with the AGCM’s decision. “The so-called ‘French scar’ content averaged just 100 daily searches in Italy prior to the AGCM’s announcement last year, and we long ago restricted visibility of this content to (under-18s).”

Another blow for TikTok
TikTok has been in the crosshairs of European regulators for some time, and has already faced fines totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Irish Data Protection Commission, which oversees TikTok’s activities across the European Union, ordered the platform in September to pay a €345 million ($376 million) fine, arguing that it failed to protect children. The regulator found that newly created profiles of children were set to public by default, meaning anybody on the internet could view them.

Last month, the EU launched a formal investigation into the platform to determine whether it is doing enough to protect minors, saying that TikTok’s age verification tools — aimed at preventing children from accessing inappropriate content — “may not be reasonable, proportionate and effective.”

This week has also been difficult for TikTok. On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that could ban the platform in the country.

The legislation would shut out TikTok from US app stores unless the platform — used by roughly 170 million Americans — is spun off from ByteDance and sold to a US company.

Lawmakers supportive of the bill have argued that TikTok poses a national security threat because the Chinese government could compel ByteDance to hand over data on TikTok users in the United States.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, described the potential ban as an “act of bullying.”

Another Chinese-owned platform is also under scrutiny in Europe. On Thursday, the EU’s executive arm said it had opened a formal probe into AliExpress.

The European Commission will investigate whether the online marketplace, owned by Alibaba (BABA), has broken a string of its rules, including those related to the spread of illegal content, minors’ access to pornographic material and the sale of fake food and medications


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