TikTok’s implementing some new changes for EU users, in alignment with the EU Digital Services Act, which imposes new operating conditions for digital platforms in order to better protect user privacy.
And the changes could significantly alter the EU user experience.
First off EU users will soon be able to switch off personalization in the app, meaning that their For You and LIVE recommendations will no longer be based on their activity.
As explained by TikTok:
“This means that For You and LIVE feeds will instead show popular videos from both the places where the user lives and around the world, rather than recommending content to them based on their personal interests. Similarly, when using non-personalized search, [EU users] will see results made up of popular content from their region and in their preferred language. Their Following and Friends feeds will continue to show creators they follow, but in chronological order rather than based on the viewer's profile.”
TikTok’s almighty feed algorithm is what’s fueled its massive success, and it’ll be interesting to see if the loss of those recommendations leads to a drop-off in EU usage.
It will be optional, and EU users won’t have to switch off personalization necessarily. But it could spark a big change in TikTok usage, which could increase the importance of users following creators they like in the app, as opposed to TikTok being able to show them the most relevant clips, based on their usage.
TikTok’s also switching off personalized advertising for EU users aged 13-17, while it’s also adding a new option for EU users to report content that they believe is illegal in the app.
“[Users] will be able to choose from a list of categories, such as hate speech, harassment, and financial crimes. Content that‘s reported for being illegal will first be reviewed against our Community Guidelines, and removed globally if it violates TikTok's policies. If it does not, then our new dedicated team of moderators and legal specialists will assess whether it violates the law and we will restrict access to the content in that country only.”
TikTok says that it will also inform users when their content has been reported, and give them the opportunity to appeal any decision.
Finally, TikTok will also facilitate more transparency over its moderation actions.
“For example, if we decide a video is ineligible for recommendation because it contains unverified claims about an election that is still unfolding, we will let users know. We will also share more detail about these decisions, including whether the action was taken by automated technology, and we will explain how both content creators and those who file a report can appeal a decision.”
The EU DSA is designed to “create a safer digital space”, in which user rights are better protected, and businesses are able to operate “on a level playing field”. It’s the latest in Europe’s fast-evolving digital protection rules, which take into account the importance of your online presence, and how your personal data is used, in various ways.
In many ways, Europe is leading the legal reformation around digital activity, but such rules also require significant re-thinking from digital providers, in order to adhere with the evolving requirements.
Indeed, the evolving DSA and Digital Markets Act regulations are why Meta’s new Threads app is not available to EU users as yet, because Meta isn’t confident that the new platform meets all of the updated parameters set out in the rules. Every other platform has also had to review and update its approach, along similar lines to these changes at TikTok, and it’ll be interesting to see how such shifts impact overall EU usage.
That’s especially relevant when you also consider that several apps are already seeing a slowdown among European audiences. Facebook and Pinterest monthly active users in EU declined in the most recent quarter, while Snapchat only saw very slight growth (+1m DAU).
Given this, these updated requirements could further exacerbate existing trends, as more users end up seeing less relevant recommendations in-stream.