10
April
2024

TikTok investigation into potential DSA breach and the implications for Big Tech companies and businesses

For UK businesses who have a European presence, the message is clear; the readiness phase is over and the expectation is that compliance with the Act should be a number one priority for executive boards.

Rory O'Hare | Corporate and Commercial Partner

Following the news that the European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in a number of areas, including the protection of minors, advertising transparency and data access for researchers, our commercial law and intellectual property lawyer, Rory O’Hare, highlights the potential ramifications the case may have for TikTok, as well as companies more broadly.

“The enforcement action by the EU Commission was the logical next step for the Digital Services Act (DSA).  It needs a big headline win, and the investigation into TikTok provides it with an opportunity to show the teeth of the Act against a platform that has been coming under increasing scrutiny from numerous government authorities across the globe.

“Whilst the Act applies to all online intermediaries (being hosting providers, online marketplaces and social platforms), TikTok, being a designated VLOP (a very large online platform with +45m annual users) has to meet the most onerous of the obligations under the Act.

“Having reviewed TikTok’s own risk assessment, and read its responses to the Commission’s formal questions, it’s clear that the Commission wants to dig deeper into TikTok’s actual compliance with the Act, than reviewing its self-marked homework.

“Like any new implementation, the ensuing investigation will if anything provide a clearer indication for other large tech businesses as to the lengths that they will have to go to meet the Act’s overarching ambition of removing illegal content, improving public security and protecting the fundamental rights and wellbeing of users, especially children, who use the services.

“For UK businesses who have a European presence, the message is clear; the readiness phase is over and the expectation is that compliance with the Act should be a number one priority for executive boards.  The action from the EU Commission is perhaps a reminder also that OFCOM, the UK regulator behind the Online Safety Act has commenced its own 3-year phased approach to implementation and enforcement of the UK’s interpretation of the DSA, and it won’t be long until the UK government play catch up and look for some big-ticket wins.”

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