Chinese technology firm ByteDance has killed a controversial TikTok rewards programme amid threats from senior EU officials. (Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


TikTok kills controversial rewards programme after EU threats


Chinese technology firm ByteDance has killed a controversial TikTok rewards programme amid threats from senior EU officials.

In a statement published late on April 24, TikTok’s European division announced it was shuttering the “rewards functions” in its new TikTok Lite app.

The system — which involved rewarding users for watching videos — has sparked fears it could further addict children to social media, with the rewards programme being compared to “cigarettes” by EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.

“TikTok always seeks to engage constructively with the EU Commission and other regulators,” TikTok Policy Europe said in a statement posted online.

“We are therefore voluntarily suspending the rewards functions in TikTok Lite while we address the concerns that they have raised.”

Commission leaders responded positively to the development, though added that they were still examining whether to fine the company using the Digital Services Act (DSA).

“This is a step in the right direction. But it’s not enough,” Commission VP Margrethe Vestager wrote.

“Formal proceedings under the DSA continue as we speak.”

Breton added that he would not allow social media firms like TikTok to treat European children like “guinea pigs”.

The shutdown comes shortly after the European Commission launched another Digital Services Act investigation into TikTok over the controversy, with the Chinese firm risking a fine of up to six per cent of its global revenue if they are found to have breached the law.

Such a fine is not the biggest threat facing the social media multinational this week, with the US passing a law that could soon see the app banned from the country entirely.

Under the new legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday, ByteDance will have nine months to sell the app to a US-approved firm.

If it fails to do so, the app will be prohibited from operating in the United States.

TikTok has branded the new law “unconstitutional”, insisting that it will challenge it in the courts.

It also rejected the reasoning behind the ban — mainly fears that the data of American citizens could end up in the hands of the Chinese government — arguing that it has put numerous safeguards in place to prevent this.

“We believe the facts and the law are clearly on our side, and we will ultimately prevail,” they said.

“The fact is, we have invested billions of dollars to keep U.S. data safe and our platform free from outside influence and manipulation.”

“This ban would devastate seven million businesses and silence 170 million Americans,” they went on to say.