TikTok has really been ramping up its efforts to earn the trust of policymakers and the broader public over the past few months, after a national security investigation was launched into the platform in the US last year.
The ByteDance-owned company published its first ever Transparency Report in December, as well as hiring a global General Counsel, and recently appointed cyber security industry veteran Roland Cloutier as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
TikTok has also launched a heavyweight recruitment drive for some influential Washington-based policy experts to improve its relationship with government.
Today (March 11), the company has announced its latest action in this ongoing campaign, opening what it calls a ‘Transparency Center’, a facility in its new LA office to allow “outside experts” to see how its teams moderate content on the platform.
Writing in a blog post, TikTok’s US General Manager Vanessa Pappas said that, “through this direct observation of our Trust & Safety practices, experts will get a chance to evaluate our moderation systems, processes and policies in a holistic manner”.
According to Pappas, the outside experts will be able to see how TikTok’s content moderators identify “potential violations that the technology may miss”; how “users and creators are able to bring concerns to our attention and how those are handled”; and “ultimately, how the content that is allowed on the platform aligns with [TikTok’s] Guidelines”.
The Transparency Center will open in early May with an initial focus on TikTok’s content moderation.
A second phase of the initiative will see the Center expanded to include insight into its source code, and efforts around data privacy and security led by Roland Cloutier, who starts with the company next month.
You may remember that a few months ago, in October 2019, after Senator Marco Rubio asked the US Government to launch an investigation into TikTok over censorship concerns, the National Music Publishers Association blasted the platform for allegedly having “consistently violated US copyright law and the rights of songwriters and music publishers”.
At the time, a TikTok spokesperson provided this statement: “TikTok has broad licensing coverage across the music publishing industry covering many thousands of publishers and songwriters and millions of copyrights, and has paid royalties since its inception. The platform has spurred the success of artists and songwriters worldwide through its viral meme culture, driving chart hits and building household names.
“We are proud to engage with and support the music community.”
Today, the NMPA responded to the news of TikTok’s new ‘Transparency Center’ – and suffice to say, it’s not impressed.
“The days of giant tech companies asking for forgiveness for stealing music instead of permission are over.”
David Israelite, NMPA
NMPA President & CEO David Israelite, said: “The new TikTok ‘Transparency Center’ will be hollow unless it includes transparency about what music is being used on the app and whether that music has been properly licensed with payments to songwriters.
“TikTok’s popularity is largely due to the musical content available – much of which is unfortunately not being used legally.
“The days of giant tech companies asking for forgiveness for stealing music instead of [asking for] permission are over.”
“We expect the Transparency Center to operate as a forum where observers will be able to provide meaningful feedback on our practices.”
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok
Added Pappas: “We expect the Transparency Center to operate as a forum where observers will be able to provide meaningful feedback on our practices.
“Our landscape and industry is rapidly evolving, and we are aware that our systems, policies and practices are not flawless, which is why we are committed to constant improvement.”
In January, TikTok inked a multi-territory licensing deal with Merlin, the global digital rights agency for the world’s independent label sector – and whose membership includes over 15% of the global recorded music market.
The platform is also understood to be in the middle of licensing negotiations with the majors.
TikTok was the world’s second-most downloaded app in 2019.Music Business Worldwide