TikTok opens up

TikTok is prepared to open its algorithms to regulators in a move that could permanently change the relationship between governments and social media giants. 

Driving the news: After about two years of negotiations with the US government, TikTok has agreed to run its content systems through Oracle servers, allowing third-party monitors at the Texas-based IT company to watch over the code for any signs of funny business.

  • The proposal also includes the creation of a wholly-owned subsidiary to handle US user data. Special rules would bar Chinese nationals from working there. 

Why it’s happening: TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is based in China, has come under increasing scrutiny by US lawmakers over concerns about the app’s privacy, censorship, and potential to be used as a propaganda tool by the Chinese government. 

  • Several bills are seeking to ban the app outright, and half of US states have restricted or banned the use of TikTok on government devices.
  • The Canadian government is concerned, too. Last month, Justin Trudeau said the federal cybersecurity agency is watching TikTok “very carefully.”

Why it matters: TikTok’s invitation to let government-approved monitors oversee its secret inner workings is an unprecedented approach to appeasing regulators, and if the US agrees, it could set a new model for other governments to follow as they seek to rein in big tech.