During a heated debate in Maastricht among lead candidates for the upcoming 2024 European Union elections, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, stirred controversy by suggesting that banning TikTok within the EU might be a viable option.

Speaking as the lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party, von der Leyen emphasised the urgency of addressing the potential risks associated with the popular social media platform TikTok. She underscored the Commission’s approach by highlighting the recent ban on TikTok’s usage on corporate phones.

Von der Leyen’s remarks come amid a series of challenges faced by TikTok in Europe. Recently, TikTok made the decision to suspend a feature that rewarded users for engaging with the TikTok Lite app, following an investigation by the European Commission under the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA). Additionally, TikTok is under separate investigation under the DSA for alleged failures in protecting minors, with the Commission possessing the authority to order temporary service suspensions as a last resort.

While von der Leyen took a firm stance on the issue of TikTok regulation, other candidates at the debate, such as Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the liberal ALDE party, opted for a more cautious approach. They indicated a need to closely monitor developments surrounding TikTok before advocating for any drastic measures. Notably, von der Leyen reportedly refrains from taking any punitive actions against TikTok while campaigning for a second term.

Despite repeated requests for comment, TikTok remained silent before the publication deadline, leaving the public to speculate on the platform’s response to the escalating regulatory scrutiny in Europe.