TikTok Opens Transparency Centre Stunt ⇥ theverge.com
Alex Heath, the Verge:
[…] I and a handful of other journalists were invited to the company’s Los Angeles headquarters earlier this week for the first media tour of its “Transparency and Accountability Center.” It’s a space that, like the political discussion about TikTok these days, seems more about virtue signaling than anything else. Company officials say the center is designed for regulators, academics, and auditors to learn more about how the app works and its security practices. We were told that a politician-who-would-not-be-named had toured it the day before. TikTok eventually plans to open more centers in Washington, DC, Dublin, and Singapore.
The interactive part of the center I was allowed to experience included a room with iMacs running a mock version of the software TikTok says its moderators use to review content. There was another room with iMacs running “code simulators.” While that sounded intriguing, it was really just a basic explanation of TikTok’s algorithm that seemed designed for a typical member of Congress to grasp. Close-up photos of the computer screens weren’t allowed. And despite it being called a transparency center, TikTok’s PR department made everyone agree to not quote or directly attribute comments made by employees leading the tour.
The heart of the presentation comes early, when the company explains to us the basic outline of Project Texas: its $1.5 billion plan to move all data attached to American users to the United States, and to put into place various governance, compliance and auditing systems that will keep the company honest.
Under the terms of our visit, we are not allowed to quote from the Project Texas portion of the discussion. At Lawfare, which appears to have attended a similar presentation, Matt Perault and Samm Sacks do a great job describing the various features of the effort.
I have fewer specific concerns about TikTok than some others; my problem is with the overall privacy landscape which allows apps like TikTok to become so dependent on user data. But anyone can see it is an idiotic look for TikTok’s big public relations splash about “transparency” when it is not on the record and detailed photographs are not permitted. What a fumble.