TikTok Fined in Italy—$11M+ Fine for Harm to Minors

TikTok fine Italy
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TikTok fine Italy
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Photo Credit: Marco Oriolesi

Just a day after the U.S. House passed a resolution to force ByteDance to divest from TikTok or face a ban—TikTok was fined by Italy’s consumer protection authority.

The AGCM fined TikTok €10 million ($11M+) following an investigation into how its algorithm works. The investigation opened last year after a trend called the ‘French Scar’ challenge went viral. The challenge showed users posting videos with marks on their faces made from harshly pinching their skin. The AGCM sanctioned three companies for ‘unfair commercial practice’—ByteDance, TikTok Technology Limited (Ireland), TikTok Information Technologies (UK), and TikTok Italy Srl.

“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,” the AGCM writes in its statement. “Moreover, this content is systemically re-proposed to users as a result of their algorithmic profiling, stimulating an ever-increasing use of the social network.”

The AGCM says its investigation concluded that TikTok was responsible for hosting content that was “likely to threaten the psycho-physical safety of users, especially if minor and vulnerable.” The regulatory body also found that TikTok did not take adequate measures to prevent the spread of harmful viral content like the ‘French Scar’ challenge.

“[Algorithmic profiling] causes undue conditioning of users who are stimulated to increasingly use the platform,” the AGCM concludes. Meanwhile, TikTok says it disagrees with the ruling as it finds that ‘French Scar’ content averaged just 100 daily searches in Italy prior to the investigation. TikTok says they took measures to reduce the visibility of the content to those over 18 and also made it ineligible for feature in the ‘For You’ feed.

TikTok may face further sanctions under the EU’s Digital Services Act, which classified TikTok as a very large platform in April 2023. Penalties for non-compliance to these regulations can scale up to 6% of global annual turnover. TikTok must offer non-profiling feeds to European users due to the Digital Services Act—though the feeds are opt-in rather than opt-out.