TikTok has released its first transparency report, in which it vows commitment to data protection and user privacy. While the report has its fair share of positive soundbites along the lines of safety enables creativity, and insists that TikTok works in unison with local law enforcement authorities around the world without hurting individual users’ data, it somehow makes no mention of China at all.
No Chinese takedown requests — Of note, TikTok claimed that it received no content takedown notices from China. The company, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, lists all countries that made legal requests for content, noting that America and India were the top two governments to do so, but China remains out of the picture. This is a particularly bizarre omission (purposeful or not) given the Chinese government’s notorious propensity for such surveillance activity.
Reporting after a rough year — When it comes to metrics like popularity, TikTok has undoubtedly enjoyed mass approval from its base of young users around the world. Short TikTok videos of parodies, songs, and even funny history summaries have gone viral all over the internet.
But while the kids dig it, various governments aren’t so fond of the app, mainly because of its direct ties to its parent company. Last year United States officials scrutinized TikTok, claiming that it posed national security risks. There were also reports of TikTok allegedly censoring pro-Hong Kong protest content from its platform, which the company denied. And, American military officials even strongly discouraged soldiers from using TikTok as they said it posed a "cyber threat.” The pressure has been so much that ByteDance is reportedly considering selling major stake in the app.
Given these details, the company’s transparency report inspires little confidence. To be fair, though, the noticeable absence of China in TikTok’s report could be due to a technicality, as the Chinese version of the app is known as “Duoyin” and is run by a different firm, The Verge points out. Still, the company’s claim that there were zero takedown requests from the Chinese government is peculiar and definitely bound to leave its critics even more on edge.