Jul 27, 2022 - Technology

TikTok says it will share data with select researchers

Illustration of the TikTok logo made from binary code.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok on Wednesday said it plans to enable some researchers to easily access anonymized public data on the platform later this year.

Why it matters: Researchers have put pressure on tech platforms to give them access to public user data so that they can better track societal trends, such as political polarization and misinformation.

  • Meta said in May that it would give researchers access to more detailed information on political ads on its platform, after previously clashing with researchers over how much data it's been able to share.

The big picture: The rapid growth of Chinese-owned TikTok has forced it to adjust its policies quickly to adhere to the standards and expectations of regulators and business partners in the U.S.

  • Sharing more data with researchers could help alleviate the pressure on TikTok from at least one of the constituencies that seeks more transparency from the platform.

Details: In a blog post, TikTok's chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas said the company will open access to "selected" researchers via new APIs, or application programming interfaces, which are a kind of coding doorway allowing access to data under set conditions.

  • The APIs will make it easier for researchers to identify and assess content and trends or conduct tests of TikTok's platform, Pappas wrote.
  • The company will also give some researchers new API access to TikTok's content moderation system. Researchers will be able to test TikTok's system by uploading their own content to see whether TikTok's system would reject it.
  • TikTok will also grant independent experts on its U.S. content advisory council and regional safety advisory councils access to its keyword lists, so that partners can perform deeper tests on the keywords TikTok uses to flag content that might violate the service's rules.
  • The company also plans to issue more guidance moving forward on covert influence operations on its platform, Pappas wrote, which is similar to what Meta has been disclosing publicly for the past few years.
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