Europe’s crackdown on Big Tech omitted TikTok — but now that’s set to change


  • Unlike its larger American peers, TikTok hasn’t faced the kinds of mega fines or legal penalties that Google, Facebook-owner Meta or Amazon have in the EU over the years.
  • TikTok has stayed out of regulatory scrutiny partly because it’s kept out of the crosshairs of commercial interests in Europe.
  • That doesn’t mean political leaders and legislators in Europe aren’t worried.
  • Moritz Korner, a German lawmaker, said the app poses “several unacceptable risks for European users.”
  • At the executive level, the European Commission’s tone on TikTok has begun to change.
  • TikTok was the most-downloaded social media app last year in Italy and Spain, according to, formerly called App Annie. The app held second place in France and Germany, the data showed.
  • WhatsApp, owned by Facebook parent Meta, ranked first among social media app downloads in France and Germany, and third in Italy and Spain, according to
  • Meta reported $29.06 billion in European revenue in 2021, a region the company defined as including Russia and Turkey. In contrast, TikTok recorded turnover of just $531 million in the European Union in 2021, according to the latest available filing in the U.K. But that was well over four times what was disclosed for 2020.
  • “It takes a little bit of time for the European Commission to get its act together on these issues,” said Dexter Thillien, lead tech and telecoms analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit.
  • “It’s not because of a lack of willingness from the European Commission to do something,” Thillien told CNBC in a phone interview. “They’ve got their hands full with bigger companies.”
  • TikTok isn’t yet a behemoth at the scale of companies like MetaAlphabet and Amazon when it comes to social media, advertising and e-commerce. But TikTok has become so popular that its app has inspired copycat products, such as Meta’s Reels short video feature.
  • More than half of people aged 16 to 24 in France and Germany use TikTok, according to
  • Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has amassed a worldwide monthly user base of more than 1 billion, and cemented the careers of well-known media personalities, from the D’Amelio sisters to Addison Rae.
  • That gives it an attractive pool of data to train its algorithms to target users aggressively with content most aligned with their interests. TikTok’s parent, Beijing-based ByteDance, has found similar success in China with a local version of the app, called Douyin.
  • A big fear among U.S. intelligence officials — and increasingly lawmakers in Europe, as well — is that Beijing could influence how TikTok targets its users to engage in propaganda or censorship.

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