EU Launches Investigation into AliExpress for Potential Illegal Content

Published March 14, 2024

Recently, the European Commission has initiated an investigation into Alibaba's AliExpress upon suspicions of distributing potentially illegal and explicit materials. This marks the third investigation of its kind, following similar inquiries into a social media platform known as X and the widely popular app TikTok.

Implications of the Digital Services Act

The investigation is a consequence of the Digital Services Act (DSA), legislation that obligates companies to intensify their efforts in removing illegal and harmful products from their online platforms. AliExpress came into the spotlight after officials requested information from the company last November.

European Commission officials expressed their concern over the sale of various unauthorized products on AliExpress, including counterfeit medications, non-compliant food items, and ineffective dietary supplements. They are also scrutinizing concealed links that may promote the sale of such products without transparency for consumers and the involvement of influencers in the promotion of non-compliant goods.

While there is no definitive conclusion of non-compliance by AliExpress, officials indicated that there are elements raising suspicion. An official stated, "This is not a finding of a breach," clarifying the investigation's current status.

AliExpress responded by highlighting their commitment to complying with the regulations in all the markets it operates. The company assured continuous cooperation with authorities to meet DSA standards and ensure a safe, compliant marketplace.

Challenges for Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs)

AliExpress falls into the category of VLOPs, defined as online platforms with over 45 million users in Europe. These platforms are subject to the strictest rules under the DSA, with potential fines reaching up to 6% of their global annual turnover if found in violation.

The European Commission's scrutiny extends beyond AliExpress. They have also requested information from several tech giants including Microsoft's Bing, Google Search, Meta Platforms' Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat, ByteDance's TikTok, and Elon Musk's X, concerning their use of generative artificial intelligence (AI). The aim is to ascertain if these companies perform risk assessments and have mitigation measures in place to combat harmful AI-generated content.

With the companies' reply deadlines set for early April on issues related to election protection, the Commission has also voiced concerns over AI fabrications such as deep fakes that could manipulate public discourse.

Additional Inquiries into Misuse of Data

Simultaneously, Microsoft's LinkedIn is facing a request for information about potential misuse of personal data for targeted advertising. This request originates from complaints by civil society organisations, which Microsoft needs to address by April 5.

As the landscape of digital services rapidly evolves, these investigations underscore the EU's commitment to regulating online platforms and ensuring consumer safety and data protection.

EU, AliExpress, Investigation