TikTok, Twitter user numbers put them under strict EU rules

TikTok, Twitter, Apple Store, Amazon and several other online platforms have announced user numbers in Europe that bring them under stricter EU rules on internet content monitoring.

The companies released their figures ahead of a deadline imposed on Friday under the EU’s new Digital Services Act (DSA), which puts internet giants operating in Europe under surveillance by the European Commission.

Those platforms — which also include Alphabet’s Google Search and Google Maps units and Meta’s YouTube subsidiary, and Facebook and Instagram units — all said they acknowledged more than 45 million monthly active “recipients” of their services have.

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This is the threshold above which they are classified as “Very Large Online Platform” (VLOP) or “Very Large Online Search Engine” (VLOSE) according to the DSA.

Many, but not all, that fall into the VLOP/VLOSE list are US internet giants.

One major non-US company was Chinese-owned TikTok, which said on Friday it had 125 million monthly active users in the EU.

Several platforms had fretted over the introduction of the new EU rules – and some just said they may or may not qualify as a very large platform under the DSA.

For example, Amazon and Apple Store’s iOS App Store only said that the number of people using their services monthly exceeded 45 million, without saying how many.

Swedish music streaming site Spotify, UK site OnlyFans, which streams content from sex workers and other content creators, and US dating app Tinder all said only that their monthly active users were below the 45 million mark .

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“We note with concern that some platforms have only published an estimate that they are below the threshold. That’s not enough,” warned commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke.

“The rules are clear. number is number. We urge those platforms that haven’t already done so to release the numbers without delay,” he said.

– Possibly high fines –

The DSA came into force in November last year and introduced stricter rules for internet companies to better protect European consumers.

It aims to tackle illegal content online, discourage the sale of unsafe goods online, better protect minors, increase transparency in internet services and data usage, and give users more choice and information when using the internet in the European Union offer.

The Friday deadline for platforms to report “average monthly active recipients” determines which major platforms will be subject to enhanced EU scrutiny.

They are the ones that have more than 45 million active users in the EU every month – or a reach of about 10 percent of the bloc’s population.

The number goes beyond just registered users and includes those who are exposed to information or services online, or those who request information online without necessarily having an account with the platform.

The largest platforms are required to conduct annual audits and state what actions they take to stop illegal content.

The commission can also order them to reveal and explain their algorithms and databases – something they like to guard jealously.

Smaller platforms have lighter obligations under the DSA.

Potential EU fines for VLOPs and VLOSEs caught in breaches can be as high as six percent of their annual global revenue – a great incentive for them to comply.

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The commission said on Friday it had launched a month-long public consultation on how it is going about enforcing the DSA.