TikTok Announces US-Based Content Advisory Council to Help Oversee Content Decisions

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After TikTok came under fire over its content moderation policies once again earlier this week, the platform has now announced a new, US-based Content Advisory Council, which will help it strengthen its moderation policies and improve platform practices.

As explained by TikTok:

“The Council brings together thought leaders who can help us develop forward-looking policies that not only address the challenges of today, but also plan ahead for the next set of issues that our industry will face. The Council members we’ve assembled represent a diverse array of backgrounds and perspectives, and have spent much of their lives researching, studying and analyzing issues relevant to TikTok and the space we operate in, such as child safety, hate speech, misinformation, and bullying. We will call upon our Council to provide unvarnished views on and advice around TikTok’s policies and practices as we continually work to improve in the challenging area of content moderation.”

And given the various controversies, TikTok will certainly need those ‘unvarnished’ views. 

As noted, earlier this week, The Intercept uncovered a set of internal moderation guidelines from TikTok, which advised its team to suppress the reach of posts created by users who were deemed too ugly, too poor, or too disabled for the platform.

The concept appears to stem from the belief uploads from these users don’t present the best look for the app – if TikTok wants to attract the most possible users, it, so the theory implies, needs to showcase more attractive people, in order to build audience.

TikTok says that these guidelines had, at one stage, been implemented in order to reduce cyberbullying within the app, but the actual documentation uncovered also included explanations around such decisions, like:

“If the character’s appearance is not good […] the video will be much less attractive, not worthing [sic] to be recommended to new users”

TikTok moderation guidelines

TikTok did additionally note that these guidelines are no longer in operation, but when you combine these questionable policy decisions with further concerns around potential data-sharing with the Chinese Government, it doesn’t paint a great picture for the app’s internal policies.

The new Content Council will, ideally, help to resolve this. Members of the council come from George Washington University Law School, Stanford University, the Global Internet Freedom Project and other academic and professional backgrounds. 

“The Council will meet alongside our US leaders to discuss areas of importance to the company and our users, with our first Content Advisory Council meeting at the end of this month focusing on critical topics around platform integrity, including policies against misinformation and election interference.”

The addition of a local content advisory body, along with the launch of its new Transparency Center in LA, should go some way towards appeasing concerns around the app, and helping it secure more local support as it seeks to maximize its revenue potential in the US market. 

It still has a way to go to win over its various critics, but the moves show how seriously TikTok is taking these concerns, and how it’s working to assure regulators that there is significant distance between it and the policies of the ruling Chinese regime in its home nation.

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