TikTok parent company ByteDance is prepared to make significant concessions in its deal with US authorities as it seeks to avoid a ban in the region.
For months, ByteDance has been working with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to establish the terms of a deal that would allow TikTok to continue operating in the U.S., with talks mainly focused on data storage and limiting China-based ByteDance employees’ access to U.S. user data. That arrangement envisioned TikTok partnering with Oracle to create a local data storage hub for U.S. users – but additional concerns have recently emerged about the way the app’s algorithm works.
“Conversations with U.S. authorities and lawmakers have become more pressing for TikTok in recent months as federal and state policymakers have taken steps to ban the app on government-issued devices. TikTok hopes that details of the planned reorganization – and promised measures to provide oversight of content recommendation algorithms – will convince potential allies in Washington of its ability to operate independently of its parent company, China-based ByteDance Ltd.”
reports The Wall Street Journal
This isn’t the first time TikTok has offered greater transparency on algorithms. Back in 2020, the global app announced plans to open a new transparency center in Los Angeles as part of its ongoing efforts to distance itself from concerns surrounding potential Chinese government interference. This is now an element of the ongoing negotiations, with the view being that by providing more information about its operations, it will reassure US officials about what’s happening at the app.
This could be a worrying development as it would effectively allow US officials to have some input into TikTok’s algorithmic process and potentially influence what the app does or doesn’t show users based on their assessment.
If ByteDance seeks to give U.S. employees a voice in the content that gains more popularity on the app, it may more closely resemble the Chinese model for Douyin, where employees reportedly have significant power over all aspects of the app’s operation.
Already 27 US states have banned TikTok on government-owned devices, as pressure mounts, ByteDance appears to be exploring more drastic measures to keep the app.
One thing is certain – TikTok will undergo significant changes in the coming months.