TikTok’s misadventures in the United States take a new turn. After moving its US services to Oracle’s cloud servers, ByteDance’s popular app underwent a major algorithm review last week by the cloud computing firm, reports Axios this August 16. The affair of the data transfers of American users of TikTok to China remains across the throat of Washington, which seeks the guarantee that the application is not manipulated by China.
Beijing’s potential involvement in moderation worries
Oracle’s analyzes focused on two essential aspects of the Chinese application: the operation of its content recommendation algorithm and the moderation practices put in place by ByteDance to delete certain videos. Oracle’s goal for the algorithm is to ” ensure that results meet expectations ”, that is to say that the highlighting of the content has not been knowingly manipulated to respond to Beijing’s policy.
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Washington’s concerns are also rooted in TikTok’s moderation practices. In 2019 the application had received orders from the Chinese government to restrict certain embarrassing videos for the Middle Kingdom, in particular concerning Hong Kong. TikTok teams based in China had come to the point of blocking content as a precaution against Chinese Communist Party policy. TikTok defended itself by assuring that the American branch of the company never received instructions from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. To ensure this, Oracle will regularly check TikTok’s moderation process, whether automated or performed by employees.
Oracle, official TikTok watchdog
Since the data transfer affair revealed by BuzzFeed News last June, TikTok is walking on eggshells so as not to further stoke the concerns of US regulators. The monitoring work entrusted to Oracle is proof that nothing should be left to chance. The American branch of TikTok is doing everything it can to respond to pressure from the American government. The company is itself at the origin of the “Texas Project” which aims to separate the operation of the application in the United States from Chinese infrastructures.
In addition to hosting TikTok’s American services in its cloud servers, Oracle has therefore become the official policeman of the social network through a collaboration. The company will guarantee the protection of data by ensuring that they are not transmitted to China. It will have to conduct regular audits to confirm or challenge future statements by TikTok regarding the use of data and the operation of its algorithm. In addition to these new measures, ByteDance has redoubled its investments in its lobbying activities in the United States to redeem its image.