LONDON: TikTok has offered US officials greater transparency into its algorithm-powered video-sharing platform in a bid to soften government concerns and avoid a potential ban in the country.
The Chinese-owned app has pledged to US lawmakers and civil-society organizations to move forward with a “complex” $1.5 billion reshuffle of its operations in the country, a source said.
“We are not waiting for an agreement to be in place. We have made substantial progress on implementing that solution over the past year and look forward to completing that work to put these concerns to rest,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
As well as an organizational restructure, TikTok promised measures to ensure oversight of its content and the functionality of its algorithm.
As part of the measures, third-party monitors will check the platform’s video recommendation algorithms to see whether code had been modified by foreign actors, sources said.
Moreover, TikTok will establish a new wholly independent subsidiary, TikTok US Data Security, which will report directly to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the body negotiating with the social media giant.
TikTok’s proposed plan, which is estimated to cost the company $700 million-$1 billion each year, hopes to address government concerns about user data privacy risks and content recommendations.
Since last summer, TikTok has teamed up with US-based software company Oracle to reroute all traffic data through the latter’s servers.
As part of its proposal, TikTok pledged to go even further and house all of its content-serving technologies with Oracle, as well as set up an audited process to delete backup data.
Proponents of TikTok’s proposal argue that the safeguarding measures would make it impossible for the Chinese government to intervene in the US version of the TikTok app.
TikTok has faced years of criticism for potentially exposing the data of US users to China, where parent company ByteDance is based.
The move aims to ease the skepticism of US lawmakers, who have repeatedly called on the government to crack down on the social media company.
If the deal fails, US officials may try to force ByteDance to sell its TikTok app or could opt to ban the service on US soil entirely.
Late last year, the video platform faced intense scrutiny after ByteDance employees were found to have improperly accessed TikTok data to track journalists in a bid to identify the source of media leaks.
Last month, US President Joe Biden signed a law that included a ban on federal employees using or downloading TikTok on government-owned devices.
On Friday, Kentucky became the latest US state to ban the popular video app on state government devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.