EU warns it’ll suspend TikTok’s new Lite app for its 'toxic and addictive' watch-for-rewards feature that allegedly endangers kids

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TikTok has risen to stratospheric popularity while getting in the crosshairs of regulators around the world. 

Now, its sister app, TikTok Lite, is the new subject of scrutiny. 

The platform, a smaller-scale version of the ByteDance-owned TikTok launched in Spain and France last month, rewards users with “points” for the time they spend watching or engaging with videos. These points can later be redeemed as vouchers or gift cards. 

But European Union regulators think the app was launched prematurely, without considering the risks it poses to children, prompting a probe to be launched on Monday. 

The features on the short-video app are “toxic and addictive” for younger users, EU commissioner Thierry Breton said in a post on X. 

“Endless streams of short and fast-paced videos could be seen as fun, but also expose our children to risks of addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low attention spans,” Breton said in a statement. “We suspect TikTok ‘Lite’ could be as toxic and addictive as cigarettes ‘light’.” 

While the app is still available, the EU Commission warned that unless TikTok proves its new app is safe for minors, TikTok Lite could be suspended. It has until May 3 to dispute the Commission’s probe and provide further information on TikTok Lite.

The Chinese-owned app was asked to provide a risk assessment of its Lite app last week, which it failed to do. 

If the social media app is found to violate the EU’s rules, it could face a hefty fine worth up to 6% of its annual global turnover. 

TikTok Lite is designed to use less memory in a smartphone and display content even with a slower internet connection, lowering the barrier for entry on the app. It is, however, only for those aged 18 and above, and it sets a daily time limit for the app’s usage, representatives at TikTok told Fortune in a statement. 

“We are disappointed with this decision,” the spokesperson said. 

EU is flexing its new muscle

The probe on TikTok comes just days after the U.S. fast-tracked a law potentially banning app in the country over national security concerns.

Brussels’ investigation into TikTok Lite marks the second one by the bloc as it leans into the Digital Services Act, a new law that allows it to regulate online platforms. In February, the EU said it’d look into the ByteDance-owned company’s breach of online content rules, which also concerned the safety of children.

TikTok is just one of the many social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and X, that are required to comply with the DSA, which took effect last August.

EU’s scrutiny of TikTok Lite is just another example of how the bloc plans to prioritize minors’ safety online. It could only be the tip of the iceberg on the slew of potential actions against social media companies, given the EU’s new DSA weapon. 

It’s unclear why TikTok didn’t provide the requested information, but if it doesn’t comply with the EU Commission’s request for data, it could see its newest venture stumble before it even took off.   

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