With growing concerns over security and regulation, Chinese-owned video app TikTok published its very first transparency report shortly after assembling a new committee of experts to help review its content moderation policy. The report reveals a list of government bodies that made requests for removing specific content from the platform as well as access to user data during the first half of 2019.
India and the US, both of which countries have a large TikTok following, topped the list with the number of requests filed. India, where the app reportedly has millions of users filed 107 requests for user data and 11 requests for content takedowns. TikTok received 79 requests for user data from US law enforcement agencies, in addition to six requests for taking down content from January 1 to June 30, 2019. According to the TikTok transparency report, the platform received 298 legal requests for user information and 26 government takedown requests in total during the first half of 2019.
China is noticeably absent from the list of countries that submitted requests, which sparked debate. However, TikTok isn’t available in China – they use Douyin, a similar but separate Chinese version of the app instead, which could explain why it is absent in the report.
“TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while at the same time respecting the privacy and rights of our users,” Eric Ebenstein, TikTok’s head of public policy, wrote in a blog post.
US Military advise the military to remove TikTok
The transparency report comes at a time when the platform faces ongoing scrutiny from US lawmakers. Last year they raised concerns over whether Beijing censors content on the app and data collection. Last week, the US military has advised its members to remove TikTok after increasing concerns about security risks that could be related to the app’s Chinese ownership.
“Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command has blocked TikTok from government-issued mobile devices,” Captain Christopher Harrison, a US Marine Corps spokesman, said in an email. “This decision is consistent with our efforts to proactively address existing and emerging threats as we secure and defend our network. This block only applies to government-issued mobile devices.”
Taking measures to lessen suspicion of international markets, TikTok said that all US user data is stored in the US, with a backup in Singapore and claims it is not influenced by any foreign government. In an effort to distance itself from China, ByteDance, which owns TiKTok, is taking steps to set up headquarters outside of the country.