Thursday 5 November 2020 2:31 pm

Tiktok to allow MPs to review algorithm over Uyghur censorship concerns

Social media giant Tiktok will allow UK politicians to review its algorithm, after MPs challenged the firm over censorship concerns and ties to the Chinese government. 

Tiktok’s UK director of government relations and public policy Elizabeth Kanter said members of the Business Select Committee were welcome to visit its “transparency centre”, to review its algorithm and the way it moderates content. 

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Kanter said the app, which is popular with teenagers, had previously taken a ‘blunt approach’ to removing certain content, but it has not and does “not moderate content based on political sensitivities or affiliation” for quite some time.

Update: Kanter subsequently clarified there was no specific policy related to content regarding the Uyghur community. In a post-hearing letter to the Committee, seen by City A.M. she has written: “During the course of today’s hearing, I made an incorrect statement in response to a specific line of questioning about an outdated content policy. TikTok has previously acknowledged that in our very early days, we took a blunt approach to moderating content that promoted conflict, but we’ve also said we recognised this was the wrong approach and eliminated it.

“However, we want to be absolutely clear that even in those early policies, there was never a policy around the Uighur community, which is where I misspoke,” she wrote.

“We do not censor content, I would encourage you to open the app and search for Tiananmen square, search for Uygher, search for Tibet – you will find that content on Tik Tok,” she said in the hearing.

Kanter added: “There is no influence of the Chinese government on Tiktok”.

Tiktok, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Bytedance, has consistently denied it holds any data in China or shares any information with the government.

Kanter this morning reiterated the company’s defence that it would not share any data with its parent company Bytedance or with the Chinese authorities.

Last month the company vowed to do more to remove harmful content as the media watchdog launched a crackdown on video-sharing platforms.

Read more: Tiktok expands hate speech policy as watchdog launches crackdown

In a blog post, the viral video app said it was expanding its policy to take into account coded language and symbols used to spread hateful ideologies.

Tiktok already removes content related to neo-Nazism and white supremacy, but will now also ban similar ideologies such as white nationalism, white genocide theory, Identitarianism and male supremacy.

The platform also said it would do more to crack down on antisemitism.