Saturday, September 19, 2020

TikTok says it will let U.S. skeptics see its code to defray privacy concerns

Jul 30. 2020
Facebook Twitter

By  The Washington Post · Tony Romm · BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY 

TikTok pledged Wednesday it will allow U.S. regulators and privacy experts to take a closer look under its digital hood, offering them the ability to "examine" its underlying software code in response to claims it is handing off data to the Chinese government

The commitment from the company's chief executive - Kevin Mayer, who recently arrived from Disney - is part of an enhanced push by the popular short-form video app to "show users, advertisers, creators, and regulators that we are responsible and committed members of the American community that follows US laws," he wrote in a blog post.

"TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy," Mayer added.

For TikTok, the renewed transparency pledges arrive as the Trump administration and its allies ramp up criticism of the app, which is owned by ByteDance, a tech conglomerate based in China. At times, top U.S. officials have even threatened to ban TikTok domestically, though it remains unclear exactly how they would do so.

TikTok also said Wednesday it would give select outsiders a "real-time" glimpse into its content-moderation policies, responding to concerns that it takes direction from Beijing's strict censorship rules. TikTok first announced the transparency commitments in March, following reports in which former employees said they had been under pressure in the company's earlier years to restrict videos that Beijing-based teams had deemed controversial.

TikTok timed its announcement to coincide with a congressional hearing Wednesday featuring the chief executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Lawmakers plan to grill the four companies' leaders about competition, part of a year-long probe to determine the extent to which Silicon Valley's size stifles smaller rivals and harms consumers.

TikTok isn't part of that hearing, but its name is likely to come up repeatedly - either as a sign the industry is competitive or a warning about the dangers of breaking up its largest companies. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, wrote in his prepared remarks that penalizing U.S. tech firms could instead embolden Chinese competitors that are "exporting their vision to other countries."

TikTok took its own shots in response on Wednesday, at one point faulting Facebook for launching a "copycat product" similar to its short video app.

"Without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices," Mayer wrote. "Competition would dry up and so too will an outlet for America's creative energy."

 

Tags:
Facebook Twitter
More in Ed & Tech
Editor’s Picks
wmg-logo
Top News
wmg-logo