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TikTok has inaugurated its Asia Pacific Safety Advisory Council, an external body composed of legal, regulatory and academic experts who will advise on content moderation policies, trust and safety issues.

 

What will the council do?

  • The external body will gather together leading experts from across the region to address immediate and future challenges facing the short-form video platform.

  • Areas of focus will include content moderation policies, trust and safety issues to promote inclusiveness, respect and safety.

  • The panel will also be charged with devising strategies to tackle any challenges affecting the platform and its users.

  • Founding figures include Dr Yuhyun Park of the DQ Institute in Singapore; Akira Sakamoto, a professor at the Ochanomizu University in Japan and Anita Wahid, an activist and president of the Indonesian anti-hoax society Mafindo.

  • Members will convene quarterly to discuss perennial issues such as online safety, child safety, digital literacy, mental health and human rights, and to provide their observations and formal recommendations.

 

Why now?

  • Heightened concern around content moderation and data privacy has swept the globe, bringing additional pressures to bear on data-hungry apps and services such as TikTok.

  • This has become particularly acute in the US where TikTok has already established a content moderation committee to allay fears over data sharing and censorship.

  • Such concerns extend to the highest levels of government, with officials from the US, India, Pakistan and Australia all expressing fears that TikTok owner ByteDance could be sharing user data with Beijing.

  • Against its protestations of innocence, TikTok has been forced to establish a separate US-headquartered business called TikTok Global, majority-owned by American investors including Oracle, to allay some of these fears.

  • ByteDance will, however, retain control of TikTok’s algorithm and source code.

  • While 104m videos were removed globally in the first six months of 2020 for violating TikTok policy, this equates to less than 1% of all videos uploaded.

  • Furthermore, TikTok found and removed 96.4% of those videos before they were reported, with 90.3% scrubbed before anyone saw them.

  • As the app has grown so too have international legal requests, with 1,768 requests for user information from 42 countries/markets received in the first half of 2020.

  • An additional 135 requests from government agencies to restrict or remove content from 15 countries/markets were also handled over the period.