TikTok steps up transparency efforts after privacy concerns in United States

Several US agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues have banned employees from using the app. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 March 2020

TikTok steps up transparency efforts after privacy concerns in United States

  • Several US agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues have banned employees from using the app

Social media app TikTok is launching a content moderation center in a bid to boost transparency, the Chinese company said on Wednesday, as it faces scrutiny from US lawmakers who have accused it of sharing user data with the Chinese government.
The “Transparency Center” is to be opened at TikTok’s Los Angeles office where external experts will oversee its operations, the company said in its blog.
The center would later provide insights into the app’s source code, the closely guarded internal instructions of the software, and offer more details on privacy and security.
Several US agencies that deal with national security and intelligence issues have banned employees from using the app, whose popularity among teenagers has been growing rapidly.
According to a 2017 Chinese law, companies operating in the country are required to cooperate with the government on national intelligence.
The US Navy banned the app in December from its government issued mobile devices, calling it a “cybersecurity threat.” Later that month, TikTok published its first transparency report on the “volume and nature” of governmental requests for its users’ account information.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley called for a blanket ban on the app for all federal employees last week, representing a broader concern among lawmakers about collection and sharing of data on US users with the Chinese government.
The company has however refuted claims and has said that US user data is stored in the United States and that China does not have jurisdiction over content that is not in China.
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, allows users to create and share short videos with special effects, and is hugely popular in Southeast Asia, including India.


Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

Updated 13 August 2020

Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ launch fund to support Lebanon’s news industry

  • The new program will support local media outlets

The Facebook Journalism Project, in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), has announced that it will invest $300,000 in a program that aims to support the stabilization and recovery needs of journalists and news organizations in Lebanon affected by the Beirut explosion.

The new program called “Supporting Beirut: Response and Recovery Fund” will assist in supporting local media outlets that have suffered damage to infrastructure and resources.

ICFJ and Facebook will award $150,000 in emergency relief funds to Beirut-based news organizations and journalists directly impacted by the blast and in need of urgent financial support.

The first phase of this program will involve identifying Lebanese news organizations and journalists who require financial support. These journalists and news organizations will then be able to apply for immediate emergency relief grants. ICFJ will award grants to select Beirut-based news organizations and journalists who meet a set criteria.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Lebanon and everyone affected by this immeasurable tragedy,” said Mohamed Omar, news partnerships manager, Middle East and North Africa, at Facebook. “We’ve been getting regular updates from our contacts in Beirut; the damage to the city’s infrastructure, including its many newsrooms, is enormous. In spite of these devastating circumstances, the news industry is working hard, under extraordinary conditions, to keep people informed and updated,” he said.

“We applaud their efforts and are continuously working with our partners to both understand their needs and support them the best we can,” he added.

ICFJ, a non-profit organization focused on raising the quality of journalism worldwide, will mobilize its local networks to implement a two-phase response and recovery initiative for the Beirut crisis.

Sharon Moshavi, ICFJ’s senior vice president for new initiatives, said: “People turn to local journalists for critical information on how to keep their friends, families and communities safe. As the impact of the devastating explosion continues to unfold in Beirut, ICFJ is prepared to work with the Facebook Journalism Project to provide tailored support to Lebanese journalists and news organizations that are providing critical information to a nation in crisis.”

The Facebook Journalism Project and ICFJ will offer additional, deeper support to select Beirut-based news organizations during phase two, depending on the longer-term impacts of the crisis.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would donate more than $2.1 million to local hospitals, medical institutions and NGOs to support relief and recovery efforts, $1 million of which has been matched by its community as part of a Facebook fundraiser.