PS12543 - Italian Competition Authority: TikTok sanctioned for an unfair commercial practice


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The company has failed to implement appropriate mechanisms to monitor content published on the platform, particularly those that may threaten the safety of minors and vulnerable individuals. Moreover, this content is systematically re-proposed to users as a result of their algorithmic profiling, stimulating an ever-increasing use of the social network.

The Italian Competition Authority has imposed a fine of EUR 10 million jointly and severally on three companies of the Bytedance Ltd group, namely the Irish TikTok Technology Limited, the British TikTok Information Technologies UK Limited and the Italian TikTok Italy Srl.

The investigation has allowed to ascertain the responsibility of TikTok in the dissemination of content - such as those related to the "French scar" challenge - likely to threaten the psycho-physical safety of users, especially if minor and vulnerable. Moreover, TikTok has not taken adequate measures to prevent the dissemination of such content, not fully complying with the Guidelines it has adopted and which it has made known to consumers by reassuring them that the platform is a 'safe' space. In fact, the Guidelines are applied without adequately accounting for the specific vulnerability of adolescents, characterised by peculiar cognitive mechanisms from which derive, for instance, the difficulty in distinguishing reality from fiction and the tendency to emulate group behaviour.

Finally, the content - although potentially dangerous - is disseminated through a 'recommendation system' based on algorithmic user profiling, which constantly selects which videos to target to each user in the 'For You' and 'Followed' sections, with the aim of increasing user interactions and time spent on the platform so to boost advertising revenue. This causes undue conditioning of users who are stimulated to increasingly use the platform.

Rome, 14 March 2024