TikTok’s Offer To Share Algorithm Details Could Set Precedent For Adland
TikTok reportedly revealed to Washington lawmakers and civil-society organizations details of a $1.5 billion plan to reorganize the company’s U.S. operations.
The hope is that the reorganization and increased oversight of its content-recommendation algorithms will convince Washington of its ability to operate independently from China-based ByteDance, its parent company, according to one report, citing people familiar with the discussions.
“We are not waiting for an agreement to be in place,” a TikTok spokesperson told the WSJ. “We’ve made substantial progress on implementing that solution over the past year and look forward to completing that work to put these concerns to rest.”
A system for monitoring the algorithms that power TikTok’s video-sharing app is a central piece of the plan to alleviate concerns among U.S. regulators about the platform’s content.
TikTok executives have described how Oracle, which won a bid to house the content in its cloud services business, and other third-party monitors would review the code related to how TikTok selects videos to serve to users, as well as how the platform identifies the videos to delete.
The report suggests that the code running the systems would be visible to Oracle and third-party monitors.
TikTok began routing new traffic exclusively through Oracle in Summer 2022. The proposed proposal includes an audited process to delete the backup data.
In a way, the proposal would give the U.S. government the ability to ask TikTok to remove the content, something Twitter-owner Elon Musk is attempting to make visible by releasing tweets to provide transparency for content removed during the past few years.
TikTok third-party monitors would check the code for the video-recommendation algorithms to detect whether it has been manipulated or if the Chinese government or other foreign actors have had access, according to the report. There would be a process to flag any issues to TikTok, and U.S. government, if necessary.
A bill in December 2022 from a bipartisan group of lawmakers was proposed to ban TikTok in the U.S., after years of concern across the Trump and Biden administrations about potential Chinese government influence on the company.
TikTok’s reassurances in the past did little to ease concerns among U.S. lawmakers. The company now hopes these moves will squash fears.