scorecardEurope cracks down on TikTok Lite variant that rewards users with Amazon vouchers
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Europe cracks down on TikTok Lite variant that rewards users with Amazon vouchers

Matthew Loh   

Europe cracks down on TikTok Lite variant that rewards users with Amazon vouchers
Tech3 min read
  • TikTok's spinoff app, TikTok Lite, is under fire from European officials for its rewards program.
  • The app doles out points for watching videos and logging in, which can be used on gift cards and vouchers.
Digital regulators in Europe are clamping down on a new feature by TikTok that rewards users for consuming videos and interacting with creators, citing addiction concerns among children.

The European Commission said on Monday that it had opened formal proceedings against TikTok Lite, a spinoff version of the TikTok app that uses less mobile data and launched in Spain and France in March.

A key draw to the new app is its "Task and Rewards" program, which allows users 18 or older to earn points by logging in daily, watching videos, liking posts, and inviting friends to TikTok.

Users can earn such points on the Lite app by watching videos for up to 85 minutes daily.

The points can be converted into rewards like Amazon vouchers, gift cards, or TikTok coins — an internal currency that can be spent to send gifts to streamers and content creators.

But the commission said TikTok hasn't done enough to ensure minors can't access the rewards hub, and is concerned it can get kids addicted to the Lite app.

"We suspect TikTok 'Lite' could be as toxic and addictive as cigarettes 'light,'" said Thierry Breton, commissioner for the internal market in the EU.

TikTok has until Wednesday to submit its defense, which the commission said it would consider as it seeks to suspend Tiktok Lite's rewards program in the EU.

The platform was also told to provide a risk assessment of its spinoff app by Tuesday. European officials previously asked for it to be submitted by April 18, saying that TikTok should have already completed the assessment before launching the Lite app. However, TikTok didn't meet the original deadline.

"Unless TikTok provides compelling proof of safety — which it failed to do until now— we stand ready to trigger #DSA interim measures including the #suspension of the TikTokLite 'reward program,'" Breton wrote in a post on X.

In a statement to AFP, a spokesperson for TikTok said the platform was "disappointed with this decision."

"The TikTok Lite rewards hub is not available to under 18s, and there is a daily limit on video watch tasks," the spokesperson said.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours by Business Insider.

The commission said it was most concerned about the mental health of young TikTok users.

Breton said the app provides "endless streams of short and fast-paced videos" that may increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and addiction among kids, echoing similar worries among lawmakers elsewhere in the world, including those on Capitol Hill mulling a TikTok ban in the US.

TikTok is already facing a separate set of proceedings from the EU aimed at its main app, also based on concerns that its algorithm and video feeds could produce adverse mental health effects.

The double crackdown was launched under the European Union's new Digital Services Act, which compels internet companies to regulate their online content on their platforms.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, is subject to the DSA's strictest rules because it's been designated one of 22 "Very Large Online Platforms," which are classified as those with more than 45 million users.

The platform has seen sharply rising revenues in Europe in recent years, with annual revenue increasing 164% from $990 million to $2.6 billion in 2022, per its latest report from September.

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