We talked about it on Monday part of the pressure stacking on TikTok: increasing skepticism from Congress about the Chinese parent company ByteDance; a series of new competitors absorbing venture capital and building their own short video apps powered by machine learning; and the public perception risk that comes from keeping managers behind the scenes and answering questions mainly through blog posts.
In it, Vanessa Pappas, General Manager of TikTok for the United States, explained her case that the management team behind the app is and remains independent of the requirements of the Chinese government. The company is building an American leadership team, a US-based content moderation team; and localized community guidelines. It promised to cooperate with US regulators. And it promises super that nothing unusual will happen to the data of Americans. Pappas writes:
We know that our users want to feel safe and informed when handling their data. We recognize the importance of this issue and want to be as transparent as possible to win the trust of our American stakeholders in this crucial area. As we said earlier and recently confirmed by an independent security audit, we store all US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore. TikTok's data centers are located entirely outside of China. We also have a dedicated technical team that focuses on complying with robust cyber security policies and data privacy and data practices. In addition, we periodically conduct internal and external assessments of our security methods to ensure that we keep up with current risks.
It all sounds good – exactly what you would want a company to say in the position of TikTok. The policies it describes do not differ significantly from any American social network that also has American leadership and locates their community guidelines wherever they are active.
But one of TikTok & # 39; s most important challenges is that Americans might just not believe them. Especially if they remember an incident from the spring of 2018. Jiayang Fan wrote about it in the New Yorker:
On April 9, the day before Zuckerberg's testimony began, Bytedance was instructed to suspend the most popular product, an app for news aggregates called Jinri Toutiao (today's headlines). The next day, regulators pulled Neihan Duanzi, the company's social media platform, where users share jokes and videos. Last Wednesday, Zhang & # 39; s official apology appeared on Weibo, the equivalent of China in Twitter. His company had & # 39; the wrong way & # 39; smashed, he wrote, and along the way he & # 39; had abandoned his users & # 39 ;. Perhaps it was not entirely coincidental that his words reflected a message from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the country's media regulator, who accused Bytedance of creating apps that offended the general sensitivity – the news stories on Jinri Toutiao were "against morality" and the jokes about Neihan Duanzi were "off-color". For these reasons, the state said, the platforms had "caused intense resentment among internet users."
After the incident, ByteDance CEO Zhang Zhemin promised to "expand his team of censors from six thousand to ten thousand, to create a black list of banned users and to develop better technology to monitor and screen content." Self-censorship is now a core part of ByteDance – the thing that keeps it functioning. Is it paranoid to assume that censorship will also sneak in TikTok?
Maybe not, according to an excellent new report from Drew Harwell and Tony Romm the Washington Post. The reporters spoke with six former TikTok employees that raised questions about the boundaries between American and Chinese leadership:
Former US employees said that Beijing moderators made the final decision whether flagged videos were approved. Former employees said that their attempts to persuade Chinese teams not to block or punish certain videos were routinely ignored, out of caution about the Chinese government's limitations and earlier fines on other ByteDance apps. (…)
"They want to be a global company, and in terms of numbers they have had that success," said a former ByteDance manager who left this year. "But the wallet is still in China: the money always comes from there and the decisions all come from there."
And what about the fact that data is stored in the United States and Singapore and not in China? Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, tells Harwell and Romm:
where the data is stored is "virtually irrelevant": "The leverage effect that the government has over the people who have access to that data is what is relevant."
This all came around today's senate about China and technology, in which TikTok (and Apple) refused to participate. (TikTok said it didn't have enough time to prepare.) Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) emphasized it PostReporting and asked for more answers:
"TikTok claims that they are not taking direction from China. They claim they are not censoring… But that is not what former TikTok employees say," Hawley said.
The hearing was not much – it lasted an hour and consisted largely of senators who led empty seats. But today was just the first round of a longer fight that was to come. And when the real battles arrive, TikTok will have to collect more than a blog post.
Today in news that can influence the public perception of the major technological platforms.
Trending up: twitter suspended accounts linked to Hezbollah (an Iranian-backed militant group) and Hamas (a Palestinian military group). The move came after American lawmakers criticized the company for allowing both groups to remain active, even after the Foreign Ministry designated them as terrorist organizations.
Trending down: Another year, another worldwide decline in internet freedom.
Trending down: twitter led to attacks on Muslim candidates in 2018, according to an important new study. Bots and trolls reinforced hateful content on the platform, which was mostly aimed at Muslim women. It created the feeling that the candidates received more criticism than they actually did.
⭐ Social media has become a channel for surveillance and manipulation of the elections, according to the Freedom on the Net 2019 report. The study looked at 65 countries around the world and found a general decline in internet freedom, including in the United States. China remains the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year.
While authoritarian powers such as China and Russia have played a huge role in diminishing the prospects for technology to deliver more human rights, & # 39; the world's leading social media platforms are based in the United States, and their exploitation by anti-democratic forces is largely a product of American neglect. Whether it is naivety about the role of the internet in the promotion of democracy or the laissez-faire attitude of policymakers towards Silicon Valley, we are now facing a grim reality: the future of internet freedom is based on our ability to use social media to recover.
The Russian "sovereign Internet" law has just entered into force. This will allow Moscow to sharpen control of the country's internet by guiding web traffic through state-controlled infrastructure and creating a national system of domain names. The Kremlin says it's a safety measure. And as far as a surveillance state is as a security measure, it is! (Elizabeth Schulze / CNBC)
Activists inside Google call on management to break ties with oil and gas companies. More than 1,100 employees asked Google to fully reduce CO2 emissions and drop contracts that "enable or accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels" (Mark Bergen / Bloomberg)
Civil rights leaders are seriously concerned Facebook & # 39; s policy to leave politicians in advertisements. They met with managers this week to discuss their concerns. (Pema Levy / Mother Jones)
Facebook does not always give people the real reason why their pages were closed, if the closure is linked to what the company & # 39; coordinated mock behavior & # 39; calls. Sometimes the company said this was for privacy reasons and users only discovered the real reason when Facebook published its report. (Jane Lytvynenko and Elamin Abdelmahmoud / BuzzFeed)
How a low-level Ukrainian diplomat propelled himself Trump inner circle by claiming he had knowledge of Democratic collusion with Ukraine in the 2016 elections. (He didn't.) (Ryan Broderick / BuzzFeed)
A group YouTube makers protest against the Federal Trade Commission plan to regulate children's videos on the platform and say the new rules will harm them financially. YouTube agreed not to place personalized ads on children's content as part of an FTC arrangement in September. (Mark Bergen, Lucas Shaw and Ben Brody / Bloomberg)
Here are the Democratic presidential candidates facing the breakup of Big Tech (in slide show). (ANP)
⭐ Few known companies collect very personal information about you, including food orders and messages, and sell it to companies such as Airbnb and crap. The goal is to determine how reliable you are. At Kashmir Hill The New York Times describes what happened when she received a copy of her report:
Starting this summer, Sift is doing have a file with you that can produce it upon request. I have mine, and I found it shocking: more than 400 pages, it contained all the messages I had ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of delivery orders for Yelp; a log of every time I opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many listings contain detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at that time.
Domestic staff is bought and sold illegally Instagram, according to an BBC undercover investigation. With the platform, posts can be promoted through hashtags that are stimulated by algorithms and the sale then takes place in private messages. (Owen Pinnell and Jess Kelly / BBC)
Reviews from FacebookPortal TV is out. Katie Notopoulos, for example, loves her. But she agrees with other reviewers who say that privacy issues about allowing a Facebook device in the home make it a non-starter for most people. (BuzzFeed)
Adobe, twitterand The New York Times has announced a new system for adding attribution to photos and other content. A tool registers who has created a piece of content and whether it has been modified by someone else, and then has other people and platforms check that data. (Adi Robertson / The edge)
Alexa, Google At home and Siri can all be hacked hundreds of meters away by shining laser beams or flashlights at the microphones of the devices, say researchers in Japan and at the University of Michigan. In one case they could open a garage door by shining a laser beam at a voice assistant that was connected to it. (Nicole Perlroth / The New York Times)
Google is buying Fitbit for healthcare data, not hardware, experts say. The portable device collects valuable information about hours of sleep, heart rate and steps taken. (Greg Bensinger / The Washington Post)
Netflix and Seth Meyers worked together to create a button that lets people skip Trump jokes. The new stand-up special from the comedian, Lobby baby, debuting on the platform today. (Julia Alexander / The Verge)
8chan, the anonymous forum that was forced offline due to links to the shooting in El Paso, is back as 8 can. The bulletin board where the shooter published his manifesto is no longer part of the site. (Jon Porter / The edge)
Pregnant YouTubers filming their water that breaks – and the video & # 39; s are becoming very popular. OK! (Harron Walker / Vice)
More schools are investing in surveillance systems to keep children safe. But some, such as those from the Gaggle security company, can also be used to track student emails, chats, and photos. (Caroline Haskins / BuzzFeed)
Jack Dorsey has thought about the all-caps styling of the new corporate word mark from Facebook.