TikTok, Twitter, Facebook set to face EU crackdown on toxic content
The largest tech platforms will have to adhere to requirements to limit disinformation and better protect children online.
TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have now confirmed they will face the strictest rules under the EU’s content-moderation law, the Digital Services Act (DSA).
Online platforms have until Friday at midnight to reveal how many Europeans use their services under the DSA. Platforms and search engines with over 45 million EU users will have to adhere to sweeping requirements starting in the summer of 2023 including swiftly taking down illegal content, limiting disinformation and better protecting kids and teenagers under the supervision of the European Commission.
TikTok said on Friday in a blog post it had counted an average of 125 million monthly active users in the bloc between August 2022 and January 2023. Meta announced this week that there were approximately 255 million average monthly active EU-based users on Facebook and about 250 million users on Instagram between June and December 2022. Twitter said it had almost 101 million users in the EU on average in the last 45 days. YouTube said over 401 million Europeans were using its video-sharing platform.
The European Commission could slap fines of up to 6 percent of companies’ annual global revenue if their investigations find such very large online platforms (VLOPs) at fault. Large companies will also be audited by external companies to check they are doing enough to ensure their algorithms and platforms don’t pose major risks to society, and researchers will have access to some crucial internal data.
Several big social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok have been under scrutiny for spreading disinformation and pushing users down rabbit holes of increasingly extreme content. Instagram has also faced widespread criticism for reportedly harming teenage girls’ mental health.
Very large online platforms will also have to pay up to 0.05 percent of their global annual turnover each year to the Commission to fund the DSA’s enforcement. Meanwhile, smaller platforms will have to respect fewer obligations and would have to focus only on tackling illegal content. They will have to apply the DSA’s requirements starting in 2024.
The Commission will, however, have to formally designate the VLOPs — with more than 45 million EU users — in the coming weeks. Three Commission officials suggested it could take between two and six weeks.
If some internet players don’t open up by the deadline, a Commission spokesperson said that the EU institution would contact and ask such companies to do so “without undue delay.” Two other Commission officials said that it could be possible to designate companies withholding information as very large online platforms by finding their number of EU users in, for example, information disclosed to investors or external estimates.
With just a few months to prepare for the content-moderation rules, TikTok doubled down on its efforts to assuage concerns about the company touting its approach to keeping European users and “their data safe and secure, particularly in the context of new regulation.” It said it will open a center for transparency and accountability in Dublin, the location of its European headquarters, in March and now had over 5,000 people working across 10 EU countries including Belgium, France and Germany.
TikTok also announced it was looking into keeping European users’ data in three data centers in Europe. Two are set to be located in Ireland; another will be in a different European country.
“We’re continuing to deliver against the data governance strategy we set out for Europe last year, which includes further reducing employee access to European user data; minimising data flows outside of Europe; and storing European user data locally,” said Richard Waterworth, general manager for TikTok’s operations and marketing in Europe.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of one of TikTok’s data centers.
This article has been updated.