Tuesday 22 September 2020 2:25 pm

Tiktok proposes social media coalition as MPs grill app over online harms

Tiktok has proposed social media firms form a global coalition to better combat harmful and offensive content on their platforms, as MPs grilled the app’s European policy boss on its track record.

Tiktok said in a statement ahead of the parliamentary hearing that it had sent letters to nine firms — Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube, Twitter, Twitch, Snapchat, Reddit and Pinterest — to work on a memorandum of understanding on content moderation.

It has also proposed a meeting to discuss collaboration.

Read more: Tiktok joins EU conduct code on hate speech as graphic video continues to circulate

The announcement came as Tiktok’s Europe, Middle East and Africa director of public policy Theo Bertram appeared via video conference today to give evidence in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub Committee on Online Harms and Disinformation.

Bertram said a video showing a person committing suicide, which Tiktok had struggled to keep from spreading and being re-uploaded on its app earlier this month, was the work of a coordinated attack from the dark web.

Tiktok’s machine-learning detection algorithm proved unable to contain the video. Bertram declined to provide specifics on how the app is going to improve the technology, but said that changes were being made.

“We saw a group of users repeatedly attempt to upload the video to our platform, splicing it, editing it, cutting it in different ways,” he said.

“We know we have to do better, and our hearts go out to the victim in this case… but we do believe we can do better in the future.”

Read more: Tiktok removed more than 49m videos for content violations in six months

Tiktok said today it had removed over 104m videos from its platform globally in the first half of the year 2020 for violating its terms of service — more than double the 49m it removed in the second half of 2019.

“Of those videos, we found and removed 96.4 per cent of videos before a user reported them, and 90.3 per cent were removed before they received any views,” the app said in its biannual transparency report.

Tiktok is currently the subject of deal negotiations over its US arm, between Chinese parent Bytedance and proposed US technology partners Oracle and Walmart.

The deal has been given preliminary approval by the Trump administration, but has not yet passed the final hurdle in either Washington or Beijing.

Read more: Trump says US firms must have total control of Tiktok

US officials are concerned that if Bytedance retains a controlling stake in the firm, it could be required to pass back data on its US users to the Chinese communist government.

Trump said last night that he could scrap the deal if it didn’t satisfy his demands.

“If we can save it, we’ll save it, and if we can’t we’ll cut it off,” he said.

“We have to have total security. That’s the only thing, very important, We have to have total security.”