TikTok to open transparency centre in Ireland

Accountability unit will initially operate virtually, offering tours from June 2021

TikTok employs about 1,100 people in Ireland. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

TikTok employs about 1,100 people in Ireland. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

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TikTok is to open a European Transparency and Accountability Centre in Ireland, providing experts with a way to learn about the company’s moderation systems, processes, and policies.

The move follows the opening of a Trust and Accountability centre in the US in July last year.

The European version will initially operate virtually, offering tours from June 2021. TikTok said the centre in Ireland will be fully operational by 2022.

“Once operational, the centre will provide experts with an opportunity to visit and see first-hand how teams at TikTok go about the critically important work of securing our community’s safety, data, and privacy,” TikTok’s head of trust and safety Cormac Keenan. “Through this direct observation of our practices, experts will have an opportunity to learn about our moderation systems, processes, and policies.”

More than 100 million people use TikTok every month across Europe.

The centre is expected to shed light on how TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company Bytedance, uses technology to keep its community safe, how content review teams make decisions about content, how human reviewers supplement moderation efforts using technology to help catch potential policy violations and offer detailed insight into TikTok’s recommendation technology.

“The landscape we operate in is rapidly evolving and it’s our hope that visitors will be able to learn more about our work, but importantly, also provide candid feedback about what they see and hear. No system, policy, or practice is flawless, and we are committed to constant improvement,” Mr Keenan said.

Safety concerns

The platform has taken a number of steps to in recent months address safety concerns, including the launch of a European Safety Advisory Council, which will advise on its content moderation policies and practices. The initiative, which will also help TikTok form new policies on emerging areas as they arise, brings together experts from a number of areas, including academia, not-for-profit organisations, charities and NGOs.

It has also tightened privacy settings for its younger users, making profiles private by default and restricting who can comment on videos uploaded by under-16s. TikTok has also disabled the downloading of videos created by underage users, and will no longer automatically include those accounts as part of its suggestions, which are powered by algorithms.

However, questions have been raised about data privacy on the platform. Last month, the State’s data privacy watchdog said it was engaging with TikTok to see whether the user data of EU citizens is being sent to China. The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon told an online event in March that engineers in China may be able to see the data of EU residents who use the popular app.

TikTok already has a significant Irish presence. In 2020, it grew its Trust and Safety Hub in Dublin. The hub made the Irish operation TikTok’s third regional centre, enabling it to operate a localised approach to content policy.

In November 2020, the Chinese-owned company announced new plans to expand, adding 200 new jobs over three months. The company employs about 1,100 people in Ireland.

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