The European Commission has given ByteDance's TikTok a 24-hour ultimatum to provide a risk assessment on its recently launched TikTok Lite app in France and Spain, citing concerns over the app's potential impact on children and users' mental health. The move, initiated by EU industry chief Thierry Breton under the Digital Services Act (DSA), comes just two months after he opened an investigation into TikTok over possible DSA breaches.

The DSA, a landmark set of tech rules, requires companies to take greater responsibility for tackling illegal and harmful content on their platforms, with violations potentially leading to fines of up to 6% of their global annual turnover. The Commission's request for information seeks more details on the risk assessment TikTok should have conducted before deploying TikTok Lite in the 27-country European Union.

In a document seen by Reuters, the EU executive stated, "This concerns the potential impact of the new 'Task and Reward Lite' programme on the protection of minors, as well as on the mental health of users, in particular in relation to the potential stimulation of addictive behaviour." The Commission has given TikTok until April 26, 2023, to provide the requested information, after which it will analyze the company's response and assess the next steps.

TikTok Lite, an app with new functionality aimed at users aged 18 and above, was launched in France and Spain earlier this month. The app allows users to earn rewards, such as Amazon vouchers and PayPal gift cards, by watching videos, liking content, and following content creators. Users can watch up to one hour of videos per day to earn rewards, which are capped at the equivalent of one euro ($1.06) per day.

In response to the Commission's request, TikTok stated, "We have already been in direct contact with the Commission regarding this product and will respond to the request for information." The company also emphasized that rewards are restricted to users 18 years and older, who must verify their age to participate.

The Commission's scrutiny of TikTok Lite is part of a broader effort to clean up social media platforms under the Digital Services Act. The EU executive is particularly interested in the app's potential impact on the protection of minors and its possible stimulation of addictive behavior, which could have negative consequences for users' mental health.

In addition to the risk assessment, the Commission has also requested information on the measures TikTok has put in place to mitigate systemic risks associated with the new app. The company has until April 26, 2023, to provide this information, which will be crucial in determining the Commission's next steps.

As TikTok faces increasing regulatory pressure in the European Union, the outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for the company's operations and its ability to launch new products in the region. The Commission's actions also serve as a reminder of the growing importance of the Digital Services Act in shaping the future of social media platforms and ensuring a safer online environment for users, particularly minors.