TikTok wants to prove it’s not censoring content by letting experts come watch
China-based TikTok has been accused of censorship about as many times as Facebook has been accused of providing questionable privacy. To help build user trust, TikTok is opening a location where moderators can be observed in action. The TikTok Transparency Center, announced on March 11, will allow outside experts to see how content moderation at TikTok works.
The center, which will be part of TikTok’s Los Angeles office, invites experts to evaluate the social platform’s Trust & Safety standards. TikTok says those experts will be invited to see how moderators apply those guidelines in real life, including by reviewing posts that the software has flagged and looking at posts that the technology didn’t catch.
The center will also allow experts to see how users communicate concerns and how staff responds. TikTok says the center will help experts see how the content that remains on the platform and the content that’s removed from the platform line up with the network’s newly updated Community Guidelines.
“We expect the Transparency Center to operate as a forum where observers will be able to provide meaningful feedback on our practices,” TikTok general manager Vanessa Pappas wrote in a blog post. “Our landscape and industry is rapidly evolving, and we are aware that our systems, policies, and practices are not flawless, which is why we are committed to constant improvement.”
TikTok says that content moderation is only the initial focus for the center. A planned second phase will allow experts to observe work in data privacy, security, and source code.
The TikTok Transparency Center is slated to open in May, shortly after TikTok’s new chief information security officer, Roland Cloutier, starts working with the company.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a company based in China, where censorship laws are strict. TikTok is regularly accused of censoring different topics, from transgender users to Tiananmen Square. Others have accused the app of being spyware. The company paid a $5.7 million fine last year for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Late last year, the U.S. government launched a national security investigation into the company’s acquisition of Musical.ly due to a failure to obtain clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
Meanwhile, TikTok’s short video format is continuing to grow — last year, the platform was estimated to have 700 million new downloads.