TikTok to provide researchers with greater transparency as malicious reports mount

TikTok makes it easier for researchers to delve into the data and protocols that make up the platform. In a blog post, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas announced that the company will soon give researchers access to the framework behind the platform and moderation system.

Pappas says TikTok will soon provide access to the “public and anonymized data” on the platform so that “selected researchers” can “assess content and trends or conduct tests.” The company will also give researchers a way to examine the existing moderation system, evaluate content on TikTok, and experiment with different types of content to see what gets rejected. Later this year, researchers will have access to TikTok’s moderation tools in the Transparency Center, a virtual hub where people can learn about TikTok’s policies and get updates on the changes it’s making.

Pappas says experts from TikTok’s advisory boards will also be able to access TikTok’s moderation tools and see TikTok’s confidential keyword list it uses to flag content that is not allowed on the platform. TikTok plans to provide greater transparency about its efforts to tackle “covert influence operations,” which it says it is publishing in its community guidelines enforcement reports.

The push for greater transparency likely comes as a way to negate recent reports that undermine its efforts to prove it is not a threat to national security because of its connection to China, where TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based. This is an accusation that former President Donald Trump and other politicians have flung at the company over concerns it could transfer US data to China.

Just hours before the announcement of TikTok, Gizmodo released a report revealing how far TikTok is going to move away from China. That reportedly includes canned responses that TikTok’s PR staff can use when faced with questions about the platform’s security and relationship with China.

On Tuesday, BuzzFeed News published a report claiming that ByteDance used the now-discontinued TopBuzz news app as a way to post pro-Chinese messages to change Americans’ perceptions of the Chinese Communist Party. ByteDance has since denied these claims. In addition, a recent report from BuzzFeed News claims TikTok employees in China have “repeatedly” access to US user data for at least several months.

TikTok faces mounting pressure from politicians amid these allegations. Last month, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called on Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores. TikTok responded by assuring lawmakers that it will keep US user data out of China and highlighted its recent partnership with Oracle to store Americans’ data on US servers.

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