TikTok on Wednesday said it would be opening a “Transparency Center” that allows “outside experts” to review its content moderation policies; the new operation, which will be based out of TikTok’s recently-opened Los Angeles office, comes amid growing concerns from U.S. lawmakers and regulators over the popular app’s connection to China’s communist government.
The app, which is run by Beijing-based Bytedance, offered few details on who these outside experts will be or how TikTok will go about adding them to the project. The Center will open in May, according to a blog post from TikTok, and will eventually move to having experts examine the company’s source code and data privacy, along with its content moderation policies.
“We expect the Transparency Center to operate as a forum where observers will be able to provide meaningful feedback on our practices,” Vanessa Pappas, Tiktok’s U.S. general manager, said in the post. “Our landscape and industry is rapidly evolving, and we are aware that our systems, policies and practices are not flawless, which is why we are committed to constant improvement.”
TikTok’s cozy relationship with the Chinese government has been under the microscope of late, with several lawmakers concerned over the information the app scrubs from its users. In November, the U.S. government opened a national security review into Bytedance and its 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly. Last fall, Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Chuck Schumer also called on the Director of National Intelligence to look at security risks related to TikTok. The senators said they were also concerned with TikTok’s data collection policy and how ByteDance had censored content critical of the Chinese government on the app.
As Reuters pointed out Wednesday, TikTok is required to cooperate with the Chinese government on matters of national intelligence, according to a 2017 law.
In recent months, both the U.S. Navy and Army have banned TikTok from being downloaded on government phones, calling the app a “cyber threat.” And last week, Sen. Josh Hawley called for a ban of TikTok on all government-issued phones.
TikTok has been downloaded more than 124 million times in the U.S., according to data shared by Sensor Tower in late 2019.