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How TikTok might fail

Over the past few years we have endured a long, one-sided and largely fruitless debate on "censorship" on our American social networks. The issue reached a low point in May, when the Trump White House called on all Americans to report observed censorship cases on Facebook, twitter, Instagramand YouTube. Nothing came out of the exercise, but a campaign raise disguised as "a social media summit," along with a salvo of red meat headlines designed to comfort the comfortable. While right-wing meme gentlemen in the White House fulminated about censorship, the Trump administration turned off comments about the live video stream and demanded that participants set all questions in advance so that they could be moderated.

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Of course, American companies remove content from social networks, including a number of political expressions, if they conflict with their guidelines on incitement to hatred, violence or nudity. For the most part, however, they allow the maximum range of free expression. As companies that only make money if we pay attention to it, they are financially encouraged to include as many views as possible on their platforms and to treat them all with relative equality. (It appears that when you do this, partisan messages perform better than centrist messages and conservative content performs better than liberal content.)

But what if censorship of political speech on an American social network was real? What if you were forbidden to discuss the Trump charge, for example, or the 2016 elections? Let's see how America & # 39; s latest social network sensation – TapTok, the product of the Chinese company ByteDance – has processed politically sensitive content. From the very good story of Alex Hern in The Guardian:

TapTok, the popular social network in Chinese hands, instructs the moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or the forbidden religious group Falun Gong, according to leaked documents describing the site's moderation guidelines.

The documents, first revealed by the Guardian, describe how ByteDance, the Beijing-based technology company that owns TikTok, promotes Chinese foreign policy goals abroad via the app.

As Hern points out, the suspicion about TikTok's censorship is increasing. Earlier this month, when protests were raging, the Washington Post reported that a search for #hongkong & # 39; yielded playful selfies, food photos & singalongs, with hardly a hint of unrest in sight & # 39 ;. In August an Australian think tank called on regulators to look into the app amid evidence that it destroyed video & # 39; s about Hong Kong protests.

On the one hand, it is no surprise that TikTok censors political speech. Censorship is a mandate for every Chinese internet company and ByteDance has been in contact with the Communist party several times. In one case, the Chinese regulator ordered his news app Toutiao to be closed for 24 hours after discovering unspecified & # 39; inappropriate content & # 39 ;. In another case, they forced ByteDance to close a social app called Neihan Duanzi, with which people could share jokes and videos. In the aftermath, the company's founder apologized enormously promised to hire 4,000 new censors, bringing the total to 10,000.

"Our product has gone the wrong way and content has appeared that is not in line with core socialist values," wrote Bytedance CEO and founder Zhang Yiming on his official WeChat account.

"I am personally responsible for the penalties we have received," he added.

For his part, TikTok told the Guardian that the story was based on outdated guidelines that are no longer applied:

“The old guidelines in question are outdated and are no longer used. Today we take a localized approach, including local moderators, local content and moderation policies, local refinement of global policies, and more. We are also consulting with a number of independent local committees and are working to scale it up globally, including forming an independent committee of leading industry organizations and experts to continuously evaluate this policy.

As it happens TikTok has a publicly placed set of guidelines, which I read for the first time today. In particular, there is no policy on how to deal with messages about politics. It remains unclear to me whether applying a more localized set of content moderation approaches means that American users can post content that Chinese users cannot post in their own version of the app. (Maybe they can?) This is what TikTok had to say when I asked:

“We know that users come to TikTok because it offers a positive, joyful app experience that promotes their creativity. Fun, entertaining short videos & # 39; s are what users upload and use overwhelmingly, and that's what we offer the most support through things like partnerships or creative filters. Although political content is fine, this is not our focus and is not what users are generally looking for. "

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As the election campaign gets underway in 2020 – or, uh, deposition procedures – I see that changing rapidly. If TikTok continues to rise, politics will naturally appear there, just like everywhere else. With the tensions between the US and China, the problem increases considerably. We saw how aggressively our politicians responded to unfair censorship complaints. Imagine what they could do if the censorship is real.

The ratio

Trending up: Facebook shows off some legitimate innovative technology on the Oculus Developer Conference, including a VR headset that you can use without hand controllers.

Trending up: Google has announced the release of a database of deepfakes to help researchers develop AI detection techniques. Technology companies have been stepping up their efforts to perform deepfake detection since 2016, but researchers are warning that AI may not be the best solution. (Kyle Wiggers / VentureBeat)

Trending down: Even if they are outdated, TapTokThe content moderation guidelines confirmed many fears about the company's approach to freedom of expression.

Trending down: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates seven companies – including Capital One and Enterprise Rent-A-Car – for alleged job vacancies Facebook to people of certain ages or genders. (Josh Eidelson, Paige Smith and Jaclyn Diaz / Bloomberg)

ruling

The activist behind the California Consumer Privacy Act is working on a new voting initiative for the 2020 elections that would give Californian consumers more control over their personal information. Tony Romm The Washington Post said it focused primarily on location data, health records and financial information:

Consumers would have to give their consent before such data could be sold, and they would be given the option to block companies from generating revenue with those sensitive insights through targeted advertising.

Mactaggart's proposal also includes the establishment of a California office to enforce privacy protection, along with stricter penalties for accidents involving children under the age of 16. And it would require companies to demystify their secret algorithms when such software is used to profile a person, such as determining their chances of employment or their ability to obtain housing, credit cards, loans, or other important services.

The power of FacebookThe Supervisory Board will largely depend on its jurisdiction, membership and the process that people have to go through to submit matters for consideration, argues this researcher. (Evelyn Douek / lawfare)

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that technology companies were building an unregulated surveillance state. He called on the UN to work together on a common set of global principles for emerging technologies. (Tom Warren / The edge)

The state-sponsored hacks of Russia do not usually share code with each other, indicating less coordination between Kremlin hackers than you would expect. When they do, it is usually within groups that are managed by the same intelligence service, according to a report from Check Point and Intezer Labs. (Catalin Cimpanu / ZDNET)

The Ukrainians behind the & # 39; I Love America & # 39; Facebook page – a pro-Trump propaganda site with 1.1 million followers – showed why they do what they do. (Spoiler: it's for the money.) (Judd Legum / Popular information)

Industry

Oculus Connect 6 started today in San Jose with announcements of a cable that delivers Oculus Rift content from the PC to the Quest headset; upcoming support for manual tracking of the Quest, and a new virtual world to explore what the company calls Horizon. It also confirmed that it works with augmented reality glasses and that it plans to build a live, real-time image of the entire world. Fun! Whatever you think of Facebook's hardware efforts, it seems to me that the company is moving faster – and talking about it more publicly – than are high-profile rivals in space. (Where the hell has Magic Leap been this year?)

Ahead of the event, CNET spoke to Mark Zuckerberg, which she tried to sell on the social chart as the murderous app from VR.

"The only thing we care about is providing human connection and helping people come together," said Zuckerberg, leaning on the theme of presence and away from a model "that's more around, here's your app, here's your Content, I'm going to get it from a store. & # 39;

The not so veiled battle of Zuckerberg over competitors with competing headsets and app stores can sound like typical Silicon Valley fights. There are many competitors: Google with his Daydream headset project, Valve & # 39; s Index headset, The mixed reality of Microsoft even Apple's emerging VR and AR efforts. But it is also a sign of how serious Facebook is about supporting VR and soon AR.

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David Marcus & attempt to do Scale happen is now in the phase & # 39; Write a medium message about it & # 39; started.

Google said it did not pay publishers in France to show excerpts of their news items. Instead, the company will change the appearance of articles in search results. Thanks to the new EU copyright regime, publishers can request money from platforms such as Google and Facebook. But it is clear that the platforms do not have to comply. (Laura Kayali / Politics)

twitter let users add up to five lists as alternative timelines in the main Twitter app, allowing people to swipe between different groups of accounts directly from their home screen. (Chaim Gartenberg / The edge)

Snapchat let marketers make video ads a little longer – three minutes as opposed to 10 seconds. The advertisements can still largely be skipped. (Garett Sloane / Saying)

And finally…

Hard day at the White House:

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Our thanks, as always, to the Facebook advertising archive.

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions and censored TikTok videos & # 39; s: casey@theverge.com and zoe@theverge.com.