In an effort to assuage U.S. national security concerns, TikTok announced that it’s no longer relying on China-based moderators to screen content from overseas. Instead, it will shift those jobs, abroad, according to a recent Wall Street Journal Report.
The popular short-form video app has become a frequent subject of government scrutiny amid concerns that its parent company, the Beijing-based Bytedance, could be operating in the Chinese government’s interest. Bytedance has repeatedly denied these allegations and previously attempted to rectify things by distancing TikTok’s operation from the rest of its business in the country.
More than 100 former moderators will be reassigned, and while lay-offs aren’t expected, some could still voluntarily leave the company because of this restructuring, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal. As members of Bytedance’s larger “Trust and Safety” team, they apparently handled the typical moderation fare you’d expect, flagging content, tagging videos, and likely seeing many dumb teenagers perform equally brainless stunts.
“We are working to find job options within the company for the China-based employees,” said TikTok spokesperson Josh Gartner per the report.
TikTok’s moderation for U.S. content has become localized in recent years, the company also stated, but until recently it still relied on China-based moderators for a few other foreign markets such as Germany.
In addition to these national security concerns, TikTok and Bytedance have also landed in hot water among parents and legislators for violating children’s privacy laws and failing to protect the data of its roughly 500 million global users.
Presumably to avoid getting chewed out further (and to stop bleeding settlement payments), earlier this week TikTok announced it would be opening an official “Transparency Center” at its headquarters in California in May. There, “outside experts” will supposedly be given a front-row seat to how the company trains moderators and implements its privacy practices, per a TikTok blog post. Though given the platform’s history of closed doors with regards to its ad-serving and data-targeting tech, exactly what information will (or won’t) be available to these experts remains to be seen.