TikTok's planned Transparency Center designed to ease privacy fears
US legislators have raised questions about TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance related to privacy and censorship
Short video app TikTok, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance, said on Wednesday that they plan to open a Transparency Center to allow more access to their content moderation practices in the US amid continued scrutiny from authorities there over data privacy and censorship issues.
“This new facility in our LA office will provide outside experts an opportunity to directly view how our teams at TikTok go about the day-to-day challenging, but critically important, work of moderating content on the platform,” said Vanessa Pappas, General Manager of TikTok US, in a blog post.
The Transparency Center is set to open in early May and will provide insights into TikTok source code, data privacy and security standards. Experts will also get a chance to see how trained content moderators work, said Pappas.
“Outside experts will include subject matter and industry experts. At this stage, we are focused on the new Center in the US but we will continue to evaluate the situation,” said a TikTok spokeswoman in response to a request for comment.
The seven-year-old start-up has become the first major Chinese social media company to achieve success in overseas markets. The viral short-video app, wildly popular among teenagers, has however received increasing scrutiny from regulators around the world over privacy concerns, potential censorship of content by China and over child protection safeguards.
TikTok and Apple have each declined to testify at a congressional hearing in March about their relationship with China.
“What are they hiding? Don’t they think these questions matter – and deserve answers?” said Republican Senator Josh Hawley in a tweet last month, after inviting the companies to the hearing.
Bytedance says it stores all TikTok data outside China and that the Chinese government has no access. Alex Zhu, chief executive of TikTok, said in an interview with The New York Times in November that he would not take down a video or hand over user data even if this was at the personal request of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin raked in almost 113 million downloads in February this year, making it the most downloaded non-gaming app that month, according to data provider Sensor Tower.