June 20, 2024
‘French scar’ leaves another mark on TikTok’s painful week



TikTok’s rough week in the west went from bad to worse today when Italian authorities slapped the app with a €10mn fine over a viral challenge called the “French scar.”

The game invites users to pinch their cheeks until they leave a lasting bruise. It became particularly popular in Italy, which prompted scrutiny from the country’s competition regulator.

Following a probe, investigators concluded that TikTok had failed to protect users from “the potentially dangerous” content. The watchdog warned that the French scar threatened the “psycho-physical safety” of users — particularly minors and vulnerable people.

“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 regulator added.

The resulting fine was imposed on the British, Italian, and Irish divisions of TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance group.

TikTok has disputed the decision. The company said it restricted the French scar was restricted “long ago” and only attracted 100 daily searches in Italy when the probe began last year. But the pain in Europe pales in comparison to the app’s problems in the US.

TikTok’s American nightmare

On Wednesday, US lawmakers passed a bill that could lead to a forced sale of TikTok or a nationwide ban.

Lawmakers said the ruling was required to stop TikTok from sharing data with the Chinese government. They also warn that Beijing could use the app for censorship and propaganda. TikTok has repeatedly denied such claims.

The company is expected to challenge the ruling, which civil liberties groups have slammed for stifling free speech and entrenching big tech’s dominance of social media.

A ban would also anger numerous American citizens. Millions of them now face losing access to TikTok. On the plus side, that could make the app more attractive to those of us in Europe.



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