TikTok Lite axes ‘addictive as cigarettes’ reward-to-watch feature under the EU’s watchful eye

The Digital Services Act’s regulatory muscles effectively forced the suspension.


The EU has effectively vanquished a TikTok feature that Europe’s digital commissioner described as “toxic” and “addictive as cigarettes.” Owner ByteDance said on Wednesday that TikTok Lite’s reward-to-watch feature would be suspended. It’s been a brutal day for TikTok as President Biden signed a bill (also on Wednesday) forcing ByteDance to sell the platform’s US operations or face a ban.

TikTok Lite, launched earlier this month in France and Spain, lets users earn rewards by watching and liking videos. They can then exchange their points for real-world perks like Amazon vouchers or in-app ones like TikTok’s virtual currency, which is used to tip creators. The EU Commission said the “task and reward” feature can stimulate “addictive behavior” in children.

“Our children are not guinea pigs for social media,” EU commissioner Thierry Breton posted on X (Twitter) on Wednesday. “I take note of TikTok’s decision to suspend the #TikTokLite ‘Reward Program’ in the EU.”

However, he added a parting shot to remind ByteDance it isn’t out of the woods: “The cases against TikTok on the risk of addictiveness of the platform continue.”

Breton fired a warning shot at ByteDance earlier this week, saying the EU had opened a formal investigation into TikTok for violating the Digital Services Act (DSA). The landmark legislation, adopted in 2022, gives European regulators the teeth to force significant changes in social media platforms to protect consumers.

Companies that break the rules can risk fines of up to six percent of their global revenues — enough to force compliance from even the richest companies. Wednesday’s suspension marks the first concrete example of the EU using the DSA’s enforcement powers to force significant changes on a social platform.

The EU’s formal investigation into TikTok Lite was its second targeting the platform this year. An earlier case, launched in February, opened proceedings against TikTok and Meta for their handling of the privacy and safety of minors. The Guardian notes that both cases remain active.

“TikTok always seeks to engage constructively with the EU Commission and other regulators,” the platform’s Policy Europe X account posted on Wednesday. “We are therefore voluntarily suspending the rewards functions in TikTok Lite while we address the concerns that they have raised.”