November 26, 2022
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

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


Social networks grow These days fast up. It took eight years for Facebook to reach 1 billion users, but TikTok has only reached five. The fast-growing short-video app has been overshadowed by political and regulatory concerns at an early age over its Chinese ownership and the impact on adolescent mental health.

The pressure on TikTok is now ready to jump even higher. The European Union’s recently agreed Digital Services Act (DSA) imposes new restrictions on the largest platforms, in response to the use of established platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to undermine elections, promote genocide and spread dangerous conspiracy theories. But the new rules could make a big difference to TikTok compared to more established platforms.

To date, TickTock has been studied less transparently and less thoroughly than Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This is partly because it is a much younger service, and fewer researchers and journalists have verified its work. But TikTok tells researchers how content is on its platforms, Facebook and Twitter I did. While Europe’s new rules force all major social platforms to open up their data and even algorithms to external scrutiny, our understanding of TikTok may change the most.

The DSA’s goal is to reduce online harm, such as harassment, and to make major online platforms more responsive to selection and their impact on other aspects of society, the primary goal of large social networks and search engines. The law was passed late last month, just weeks after a companion law was passed aimed at monopolizing the technology. “Through today’s agreement, we ensure that platforms have a responsibility for the risks that their services may pose to society and citizens,” said Margaret Vesteger, executive vice president of the European Commission. The legal text of the law is now being finalized, and it could take effect in January 2024. Like Europe’s GDPR data protection laws, DSA can change how technology companies operate around the world.

The details, which were confirmed after the DSA’s previous draft and discussion, clearly indicate that the law will force major changes in the way social networks are managed. With over 45 million active users in the EU, the most difficult steps for the platform are reserved. TikTok said in 2020 that it has more than 100 million users in Europe.

TikTok declined to answer questions about what DSA compliance could change. Spokesman Brooke Oberweiter said TikTok welcomed DSA’s “focus on transparency as a way to show accountability” and that the company was “intent” to work with its users to “build trust through transparency”.

Experts say there is a lack of such transparency. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine highlights the power of the tick and its ambiguity. Soon after the war broke out in February, Tiktuk became the focal point for spreading rumors and videos of the war. But researchers at nonprofits and academia cannot easily monitor how such content is spread because the company does not offer an API that enables it to study its platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The social media research combined tracking exposure had to use software that surfed and ticked TickTock to uncover how the company quietly restricted content available to Russian users.

The requirements that DSA places on large platforms can provide a more complete picture of future emergencies that go online. A “crisis process” in law allows the European Commission to order the largest platforms to restrict specific content in response to a security or health emergency. The “tested” external researchers for DSA always need a large platform to access the data needed for online risk studies. “Data access is a game-changer,” said Alex Engler, a social impact study algorithm fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank. “This will allow systematic evaluation of the actual results and effects of these platforms and may change the social insights we may have in these public squares.”


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