The EU warned TikTok’s new rewards characteristic may very well be addictive. Now the app’s suspended it | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

TikTok introduced Wednesday that it had suspended a characteristic that rewarded customers for watching and liking movies on its new Lite app, accessible in France and Spain, after the EU launched an investigation Monday over child-safety considerations.

Having already launched a probe into TikTok in February, the European Commission on April 22 opened one other investigation into the social media app’s new “Lite” model over considerations in regards to the app’s “risks of serious damage for the mental health of users”, together with minors.

Threatening to impose interim measures together with suspending the controversial rewards programme featured within the “Lite” app within the EU “pending the assessment of its safety”, Brussels had given TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, till Wednesday April 23 to supply a danger evaluation for TikTok Lite.

The fee had additionally warned that if TikTok did not reply to the request, it may impose fines of as much as one % of its whole annual earnings or of its world turnover and periodic penalties as much as 5 % of its common every day earnings or annual turnover worldwide.

“We suspect TikTok ‘Lite’ could be as toxic and addictive as ‘light’ cigarettes,” Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, stated on the time.

In a put up on X following TikTok’s announcement that it will be suspending the controversial rewards programme, Breton was triumphant.

“Our children are not guinea pigs for social media,” he stated.

The ‘rewards’ programme

A lighter model of the favored TikTok app, TikTok Lite, which was launched in France and Spain two weeks in the past, takes up much less reminiscence in a smartphone and is made to carry out over slower web connections.

TikTok’s slimmed-down model primarily targets youngsters, who are sometimes geared up with much less highly effective cellular gadgets.

The spinoff app additionally contained a further characteristic that allowed customers aged 18 and over to earn factors by performing sure duties similar to watching movies, “liking” content material, following content material creators or inviting “friends” to enroll.

The factors may then be exchanged for items similar to vouchers or reward playing cards in addition to digital foreign money that may very well be spent on content material creators by way of the app’s rewards programme.

According to French information outlet Libération, TikTok Lite customers may earn as much as 300 factors upon signing up and tons of extra in the event that they log in every day for 10 days.

Risks of habit

Some specialists additionally agree that TikTok Lite’s new options might show to be addictive.

“Rewards in TikTok may activate the limbic system, the reward system in the brain, which is associated with the development and maintenance of addictions,” stated Daria J. Kuss, affiliate professor in psychology at Nottingham Trent University.

“When using TikTok, we experience a feeling of pleasure, a reward. Over time, the brain learns to associate TikTok use with this pleasurable experience and will crave more of it, which can explain the maintenance of the behaviours,” Kuss stated.

TikTok Lite’s rewards programme can also improve the “addictive potential” of the world’s most addictive social media platform.

“Traditional TikTok operates primarily as a platform for creating, sharing, and viewing short-form movies. Its addictive potential largely stems from a number of key options similar to infinite scroll and algorithmic feed,” said Halley Pontes, senior lecturer in psychology at Birkbeck, University of London.

“TikTok Lite, while similar in its basic functionality to the traditional app, includes a reward system that may alter its addictive potential due to the task and reward programme [through] monetary incentives and behavioural reinforcement,” Pontes said.

Second EU probe

The European Commission’s probe into TikTok is the EU’s second under a new law – the Digital Services Act (DSA) – against the social media platform, following a February probe over alleged violations of its obligations to protect minors online.

Demanding that digital firms do more to police online content, the DSA gives the EU the power to slap companies with heavy fines that could reach as high as six percent of a digital firm’s global annual revenues.

Repeat offenders can even see their platforms blocked in the 27-country European Union.

The commission said it believes TikTok launched the app “with out prior diligent evaluation of the dangers it entails, significantly these associated to the addictive impact of the platforms, and with out taking efficient danger mitigating measures”.

The commission also quizzed TikTok about its measures to mitigate “systemic dangers” in its Lite app and gave the platform till May 3 to reply.

Scientific analysis

Few scientific research, nonetheless, have been carried out on the potential addictive results of TikTok, and little is understood about its true addictive potential, Pontes stated.

“While some research has shown an association between addictive social media use and use of substance, the existing evidence does not allow for any causal association to be established and as such, caution is advised when generalising such relationships, as they could stigmatise social media users,” he stated.

Meanwhile a 2023 Chinese examine cited in a report by the French Senate’s investigation fee discovered a excessive prevalence of addictive short-video software use amongst surveyed adolescents.

The examine additionally highlighted addictive customers’ usually worse psychological well being circumstances in comparison with reasonable or non-users.

“TikTok has a possible addictive potential in that highly engaged users may develop problems traditionally associated with substance-related addiction as a consequence of using the app,” Kuss stated.

“These symptoms are mood modification (using the app to change how you feel), tolerance (needing to spend increased amounts of time on the app to experience the same feelings), abstinence (discontinuing the problematic behaviours), withdrawal (adverse psychological and physiological symptoms during abstinence), relapse (reinstatement of the problematic behaviours after a period of abstinence), conflict (internal – not being able to stop the behaviours, and interpersonal – problems with the social world around the user),” she stated.

(with AFP)

This article has been translated from the unique in French.