Social media algorithms come under scrutiny — Analysis

Tech giant Oracle is auditing TikTok’s algorithms in search of manipulation by the Chinese Communist Party

American tech corporation Oracle is auditing ultra-popular social media platform TikTok’s algorithms and content moderation rules to check for manipulation by the Chinese Communist Party, Axios reported on Tuesday. The probe is part of parent company ByteDance’s ongoing efforts to clear its name after former president Donald Trump threatened to ban it from the US entirely.

It is part “Project Texas,” the company’s response to a BuzzFeed report that revealed some China-based employees had access to TikTok users’ data. Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s CEO, described the project in a positive light. “help build trust with users and key stakeholders by improving our systems and controls”As well as to “make substantive progress toward compliance with the final agreement with the US government that will fully safeguard user data and US national security interests.”

TikTok acknowledged that certain Chinese workers can access the data, but maintained this was not true. “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our US-based security team.” The company has also promised its AI will be trained in Oracle’s cloud and pledged to move all US users’ data to Oracle servers located in the US. It will delete users’ private data from its own servers and “fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US,”Following the BuzzFeed scandal, it issued a statement to Washington.

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BuzzFeed’s article inspired a bipartisan revival of anti-TikTok sentiment and led Federal Communications Commission head Brendan Carr to entreat Apple and Google to remove the app from their app stores, claiming its “pattern of surreptitious data practices”Poses “an unacceptable national security risk.” He described ByteDance as “an organization that is beholden to the Communist Party of China and required by the Chinese law to comply with PRC’s surveillance demands.”

US tech titans are right to worry about TikTok which has more users per day than other apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Coupled with the fact that TikTok’s algorithm is hailed in the tech press for “knowing users better than they do themselves” – the app has become infamous for its alleged ability to guess users’ sexuality, uncover past traumas that may or may not exist, and even inspire mental illness – it’s not hard to see why American Big Tech wants to understand what makes it tick.

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