Europe’s New Law Will Force Secretive TikTok to Open Up


Social media is growing go up faster these days. It took Facebook eight years to reach 1 billion users, but TikTok reached just five. The application of fast-growing short videos was also hampered by political and regulatory concerns at a younger age about its Chinese ownership and its influence on adolescent mental health.

The pressure on TikTok will now increase even more. The recently agreed EU Digital Services Act (DSA) imposes new restrictions on larger platforms, a reaction to the use of established platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to undermine elections, promote genocide and spread dangerous theories. of conspiracy. But the new rules are likely to bring about bigger changes to TikTok than to more established platforms.

So far, TikTok has been less transparent and less studied than Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This is partly because it is a much younger service and fewer researchers and journalists have examined how it works. But TikTok has also not provided tools to allow researchers to study how content circulates on its platform, such as Facebook and Twitter to have done. When new European standards force all major social platforms to open their data and even algorithms to external scrutiny, our understanding of TikTok can change above all else.

The DSA aims to reduce online damage, such as harassment, and make major online platforms more responsible for its effects on elections and other aspects of society, with large social networks and engines. search as the main goals. The law was agreed at the end of last month, weeks after the passage of a complementary law aimed at technological monopoly power. “With today’s agreement we make sure that the platforms are responsible for the risks that their services may pose to society and citizens,” said European Commission Executive Vice President Margarethe Vestager on the DSA’s decision. The legal text of the law is being finalized, and could come into force in January 2024. As with the European data protection law GDPR, the DSA can alter the way technology companies around the world operate.

Previous DSA drafts and details confirmed after the conclusion of the negotiations clearly suggest that the law will force major changes in the way social media works. The toughest measures are reserved for platforms with more than 45 million active users in the EU. TikTok said in 2020 it had more than 100 million users in Europe.

TikTok declined to answer questions about what changes it might need to make to comply with the DSA. Spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said TikTok welcomed the DSA’s “focus on transparency as a means of showing accountability” and that the company “intended” to continue its work “to build trust through transparency “with its users.

Experts say this transparency has been lacking. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the power of TikTok and its inscrutability. Shortly after the war began in February, TikTok became a hub for spreading rumors and videos of the war. But researchers from nonprofits and academia can’t easily control how this content is spreading because the company doesn’t offer APIs that allow it to study its platform, as Facebook and Twitter do. The social networking research group Tracking Exposed had to use software that browsed and scraped TikTok to find out how the company was silently limiting the content available to users in Russia.

The requirements set by the DSA on large platforms could provide a much more complete picture of future emergencies taking place online. A “crisis mechanism” in the law allows the European Commission to order larger platforms to restrict certain content in response to a security or health emergency. The DSA also requires large platforms to provide “approved” external researchers with access to the data needed to study risks online at all times. “Access to data is a game changer,” says Alex Engler, a member of the Brookings Institution think tank that studies the social impact of algorithms. “It will allow for a systematic assessment of the actual results and effects of these platforms and may change the view of society we may have in these public squares.”





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