TikTok Launches PR Effort—Sorry, Transparency Center

Photo illustration by Nikolas Joao Kokovlis / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

TikTok is opening a new European Center for Transparency and Accountability in Ireland, modeled on the US entity launched last summer.

The goal seems to be to show the public that the company – owned by China’s ByteDance – has nothing to hide.

“With more than 100 million people across Europe active on TikTok each month, our teams are focused on maintaining their trust and the trust of policymakers and the general public,” said Cormac Keenan, Head of Trust and Security.

“An important part of this is helping people understand our work better. And we believe it is crucial to be open about what is going on behind the scenes.”

Currently, thanks to the pandemic, the center can only offer virtual tours. The longer-term plan, however, allows “experts” to visit and monitor the company’s security, data, and privacy practices.

This includes seeing how content review teams make content decisions based on the company’s community guidelines and how that work is complemented by human reviews and technical tools.

According to Keenan, the center will welcome “open” feedback. “No system, policy, or practice is flawless and we are committed to continuous improvement,” he says.

“After meeting epilepsy experts last year, for example, we listened to the feedback and thus introduced a number of new functions to protect people from light-sensitive content.”

TikTok has steadily expanded its presence in Ireland. A new data center is planned for 2022 and more than 1,000 new employees were hired last year.

At the same time, however, it has received repeated criticism for its security measures, particularly child protection – from “blackout challenges” to the finding by UK regulator Ofcom that many users of the website are under the official minimum age of 13 years.

TikTok is also under constant review in Europe and the USA for data protection issues. For example, last week a class action lawsuit was filed against the company in the UK alleging it had illegally collected data from millions of European children.

In the meantime, the Irish data protection commissioner is currently investigating whether the app might share user data with China – also a problem in the US.

Unfortunately, TikTok is unlikely to fix these issues if visitors can chat with content moderators.

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