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As Chinese apps face scrutiny abroad, TikTok releases new transparency report

Written by Wency Chen Published on 

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Who you calling a Chinese app? — TikTok

TikTok on July 9 has released its second transparency report, revealing that nearly 50 million pieces of content were removed globally in the second half of last year, and detailing its policy on content moderation. The report comes as the platform’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, has been hastily cutting the international offshoot away from its domestic version Douyin.

The report is the first time TikTok disclosed the volume of videos removed for violating its community guidelines and terms. The removed content accounted for less than 1% of all videos uploaded during that period and was pulled for reasons such as “adult nudity and sexual activities,” violating “minor safety policies”, and containing “violent and graphic content.”

The report notes that the company is enhancing systems that can automatically flag certain types of content that may violate policies to act more swiftly. Within the reported six months, the systems removed 98.2% of those videos before a user reported them.

When it comes to the countries and regions, TikTok says more than 16 million removed videos came from India, followed by the US’s 4.6 million and Pakistan’s 3.7 million. It also received 500 legal requests for information from 26 countries, more than half of which are from India. Additionally, TikTok also received 45 content removal requests from local governments.

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The company released its first transparency report, covering the first half of 2019, at the end of last year. On the other hand, Douyin announced that it had blocked 8,752 Douyin accounts during the coronavirus period since they violated the platform’s community guidelines and terms of service. Last year in May, ByteDance released a “Self-regulatory Mechanism of Live Video Streaming Platform” introducing its content management on its in-house platforms Douyin, Xigua Video, Jinri Toutiao and Huoshan Video.

The latest transparency report also indicates that TikTok didn’t receive any request from Chinese authorities, as the immensely popular short video app has been facing political headwinds lately due to its Chinese origins. Bytedance is considering a corporate structure change to TikTok and is establishing a headquarters for the app outside of China, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In June, TikTok was removed from Indian app stores following the local authorities’ order of banning 59 Chinese apps after a border clash between the two countries. The US is also considering a ban on Chinese social media apps, like TikTok, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News earlier this week, citing national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data.

Meanwhile, this week, TikTok ended services in Hong Kong after Beijing implemented a new national security law. Its departure from the Hong Kong market signals that it took a stand with its western social media peers, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, which announced they will suspend compliance with Hong Kong law enforcement requests for user data. Notably, Douyin is still available in Hong Kong.

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