TikTok’s algorithms and content moderation models are now being audited by computing giant Oracle.
Oracle will be responsible for "regular vetting and validation" of TikTok's content recommendation and moderation models, a spokesperson told news site Axios.
The monitoring process is intended to safeguard against the platform’s huge collection of content being manipulated by Chinese authorities.
It gives Oracle oversight of TikTok’s algorithms "to ensure that outcomes are in line with expectations and that the models have not been manipulated in any way," the report said.
TikTok’s algorithms steer its recommendations for videos across its platform of 50 million daily active users in the US.
Although TikTok has confirmed the reports, Oracle has not directly commented on the vetting processes, but the new arrangement should help the video-sharing platform allay concerns in the US government about protecting US data from Chinese authorities and guarding against interference in the availability of video content.
The mammoth task of migrating to US data centres
The algorithm monitoring comes after TikTok announced in June it would be moving all its US traffic to Oracle servers after claims emerged that user data had been accessed from China.
A BuzzFeed report in the US earlier this year found that data belonging to US users had been repeatedly accessed from China, potentially providing a “backdoor” to sensitive personal information.
In leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of its parent company ByteDance discussed repeatedly accessing non-public data about TikTok’s US users from 2021 to 2022.
Following this, TikTok explained that China-based employees have access to TikTok US user data, subject to a series of robust cyber security controls and authorisation approval protocols overseen by its US-based security team.
In a year-long process TikTok has changed the default storage location of American user data so that 100 per cent of its US user traffic is being routed to Oracle’s cloud infrastructure.
“We still use our US and Singapore data centres for backup, but as we continue our work, we expect to delete US users' private data from our own data centres and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US,” TikTok said in its announcement about US data governance.
“In addition, we're working closely with Oracle to develop data management protocols that Oracle will audit and manage to give users even more peace of mind.”
Long-held concerns about TikTok
As TikTok’s operations have expanded and its number of users exploded around the world, there have been numerous reports of censorship of certain videos and questions about the security of user data on the platform.
The video-sharing app has now made significant operational and policy changes, including a new department with US-based leadership to solely manage its US user data and enforcing employee security protections in a bid to further minimise data transfer outside of the US.
“We know we are among the most scrutinised platforms from a security standpoint, and we aim to remove any doubt about the security of US user data,” the company said.
In 2020, then US president Donald Trump wanted to axe TikTok because of national security concerns about its China-backed owners.
In the wake of this, the deal with Oracle was brokered to house all US user data on-shore after Microsoft, Twitter and Oracle expressed interest in buying the video-sharing business.