TikTok updates safety policies as US scrutiny continues

TikTok updates safety policies as US scrutiny continues

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As ByteDance Ltd.-owned TikTok stares down the barrel of a shotgun in the U.S., the company announced today that it’s introducing new moderation policies for creators and users.

Julie de Bailliencourt, TikTok’s global head of policy, said in a blog post that the company will now have a strike system for people who violate community guidelines. The YouTube-style system is for everyone, whether posting content or commenting on it.

The system is a little more nuanced that YouTube’s. Some strikes are worse than others and in some cases, such as when someone posts content promoting violence or containing child sexual abuse material, it could be one strike and a permanent ban. In other cases, someone may post spam and accrue a strike, but if the same person commits the same offense again and again, they will likely be banned forever.

“These changes are intended to drive more transparency around our enforcement decisions and help our community better understand how to follow our Community Guidelines,” said Bailliencourt. She added that soon TikTok will have a new Safety Center for creators, so they know exactly what they have been accused of if they are given a strike. Another feature on the way will explain to creators why their content is “ineligible for recommendation to For You feeds.”

The news comes just days after House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers announced that in March, TikTok’s Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will get his first grilling in front of Congress.

Much of the talk will be about the national security issues that U.S. politicians have been airing for a few years now. Just in the last few weeks, that fear has resulted in a number of states banning the app on government devices, while other politicians have maintained that TikTok should be banned from the U.S. completely. The Congress meeting will also feature the dangers TikTok’s content might pose to children, which is a likely reason for these new safety policies.

Also today, Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, added to the pressure on TikTok when he announced that he had written to Google LLC and Apple Inc. asking them to remove the app from their app stores. He said that given the risk that data could be harvested and sent back to the Chinese Communist Party, it was “irresponsible” of them to make the app so freely available in the U.S.

It will be interesting to see how that pans out. TikTok’s biggest market is the U.S., and banning it would not only frustrate millions of users but take a lifeline away from creators. Much may now rest on what Chew tells Congress next month.

Photo: Solen Feyissa/Flickr

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