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TikTok at risk as European Commission President calls it a ‘Danger’ amid ban buzz

Published Apr 30th, 2024 11:18AM EDT
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The US moved closer to banning TikTok last week. The Senate voted in favor of the legislation that could pave the way to such a move. However, the lawmakers aren’t necessarily aiming to ban the app. The first option is for ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US company. The Chinese firm has up to 12 months to sell TikTok, or it risks being banned.

The US isn’t the only Western country targeting the popular social networking app. According to recent remarks from Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, the EU is also contemplating a ban. Von der Leyen said during a debate ahead of local EU elections that she “knows exactly the danger of TikTok.”

The social network is already under investigation in the EU for alleged violations of local laws. That’s on top of any worries that TikTok might be spying on citizens, or that it may offer China a way to manipulate public opinion. These are the arguments US lawmakers have put forward in recent years as they look to ban TikTok in the US.

As is the case in America, TikTok is banned from government phones in the EU. During a debate in Maastricht earlier this week, Ursula von der Leyen reminded voters that the Commission was “the very first institution worldwide to ban TikTok on our corporate phones.”

Answering a question about a TikTok ban in the EU following the newly passed US legislation, von der Leyen said that a ban is “not excluded.”

“We know exactly the danger of TikTok,” the EC president said, per Politico.

The report notes that von der Leyen didn’t appear in her capacity as Commission president at the debate. She is the lead candidate for the center-right European People’s Party. The remarks were made ahead of the European elections. But von der Leyen is a person who would know what she’s talking about when it comes to TikTok worries in the region.

The Commission is already investigating TikTok for possible violations of a recent piece of legislation called the Digital Services Act (DSA). Last week, TikTok removed a feature that offered users of TikTok Lite rewards for interacting with the app. That’s one feautre the Commission had been investigating.

The EC is specifically looking at TikTok’s alleged failures to protect minors consuming content on the platform. The investigation also falls under the DSA law, which forces social networks like TikTok to moderate content and protect users.

This wouldn’t be the first time the EU has discussed a potential TikTok ban, even though these remarks came in response to the new law US lawmakers passed. In early 2023, the EU made it clear that banning TikTok is possible if the company fails to comply with the DSA.

As we’ve seen in America, not everyone is convinced a TikTok ban is warranted. Politico notes that the lead candidate for the liberal ALDE party, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, was more noncommital about a ban.

Then again, a TikTok sale to a US company might change the EU’s tone. But the EU’s other big tech-centric law, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), is largely aimed at regulating big US tech companies.

Meanwhile, TikTok plans to fight the new law that forces the sale of TikTok in the US. TikTok will take the case to court. That’s certainly more than Facebook, Telegram, and Signal can do in China, where the government recently banned WhatsApp, Threads, Telegram, and Signal.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.