TikTok Releases First Transparency Report
TikTok released its first transparency report on Monday. The report showed which countries submitted requests for content removal as well as access to user data. China is notably absent from the report. The app claims it did not receive a single takedown request from China in the first half of 2019.
The news comes after a difficult year for the company, which faced growing scrutiny for its relationship with China. A report from The Washington Post suggested TikTok was censoring content related to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, likely to appease the Chinese government. TikTok denied the allegations, but lawmakers in the US from calling for a national security probe.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reached out to ByteDance with national security concerns that threatened the existence of the app. Since CFIUS manages mergers and acquisitions with US companies, its inquiry raised concerns that ByteDance could be forced to sell TikTok. Most recently, the US Navy went so far as to ban soldiers from using the app, saying it was a cyber threat.
The report shows that US law enforcement agencies have been working with TikTok to gain access to user data and take down content that violates US laws. TikTok received 79 requests for user data from US law enforcement agencies, along with six requests for content takedowns in the past year. The company complied with 86 percent of the user data requests and restricted or blocked seven accounts.
Eric Ebenstein, TikTok’s head of public policy, wrote in a blog post, “TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while at the same time respecting the privacy and rights of our users.”
The US submitted the second-highest number of overall requests, beat out only by India, which submitted 107 requests for user data and 11 requests for content takedowns. That’s likely because the app is highly popular in both countries. It could also explain why China isn’t in the report since the app doesn’t operate there.