The European Union has initiated a formal investigation into the social media giant TikTok, owned by ByteDance, over concerns that it may have violated the bloc's comprehensive Digital Services Act (DSA) by inadequately protecting minors and lacking transparency in its advertising practices. This inquiry marks a significant challenge for TikTok, which could face penalties amounting to as much as 6% of its global revenue if found non-compliant.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton announced the move, underscoring the EU's determination to ensure online platforms adhere to regulations designed to safeguard children and promote clear advertising. "Today we open an investigation into TikTok over suspected breach of transparency & obligations to protect minors: addictive design & screen time limits, rabbit hole effect, age verification, default privacy settings," Breton stated, highlighting the critical areas of concern.

The probe will scrutinize TikTok's system design, including its algorithmic mechanisms, which might encourage behavioral addictions or lead users down content 'rabbit holes.' Moreover, the investigation will assess whether TikTok has implemented adequate measures to guarantee privacy, safety, and security for its younger audience.

TikTok responded to the allegations, asserting its commitment to user safety, especially among teens, and expressed readiness to elucidate its protective measures to the European Commission. "TikTok has pioneered features and settings to protect teens and keep under 13s off the platform, issues the whole industry is grappling with," a spokesperson for TikTok mentioned, emphasizing the platform's proactive stance on these challenges.

This inquiry by the EU follows a similar investigation into Elon Musk's X (formerly Twitter) initiated in December of the previous year, marking the second DSA investigation targeting major social media platforms. The DSA, which came into effect in August, imposes stricter obligations on large tech companies, defined by having more than 45 million monthly users in the EU, to combat the spread of illegal content and disinformation.

The European Commission's probe into TikTok will not only delve into its content addiction and minor protection strategies but will also examine the platform's advertising transparency and data accessibility for researchers. This comprehensive investigation underscores the EU's broader efforts to regulate and ensure accountability among major tech and social media companies operating within its jurisdiction.

TikTok, boasting nearly 136 million monthly active users in the EU, now finds itself under significant scrutiny, reflecting the growing global concern over the impact of social media on minors and the imperative for transparent digital advertising practices. As the investigation unfolds, the outcome could set a precedent for how digital platforms are regulated in terms of user safety and advertising ethics, reinforcing the EU's role as a frontrunner in digital regulation.