TikTok nears moving all its China-based content moderation outside the country amid US pressure

Coco Feng

The viral short video app TikTok, under scrutiny in the US over privacy and censorship concerns in recent months, said it would complete the transfer of the app's content moderation to locations outside China “within a few weeks”.

The work done by a team under the Trust & Safety department “primarily helping with overnight coverage for some non-US regions” will be transferred to “local teams in the markets they cover within a few weeks,” a TikTok spokeswoman said in an emailed response on Monday.

The app's owner ByteDance is now “working to find job options within the company for the China-based employees,” she said. The restructure will affect more than 100 employees in China, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing people familiar with the matter.

TikTok, the overseas version of China’s Douyin, was the world's most downloaded non-game app over the past two months, according to Sensor Tower. It has however drawn attention from regulators in different markets. ByteDance is currently embroiled in a US national security inquiry into TikTok's handling of user data.

TikTok to open Transparency Center in US to allay content concerns

TikTok unveiled a plan last week to open a Transparency Centre in Los Angeles to allow more access to their content moderation practices in the US. In addition, it has repeatedly said that it stores TikTok US user data in the country, with backup redundancy in Singapore.

It will be a critical year for ByteDance, the world's most valuable start-up with a valuation of around US$78 billion, to consolidate its international expansion amid US-China tensions.

Beijing Kunlun Tech, the Chinese owner of gay dating app Grindr, agreed earlier this month to sell its 98.59 per cent stake in the entity after having been asked by the US government to divest itself.

Around the same time, another Beijing-based information technology firm said it would comply with an order from US President Donald Trump to divest from a Delaware venture. The order was also made on US national security concerns.

ByteDance last week named two dedicated China executives, while founder Zhang Yiming will shift his focus to global strategy, under which ByteDance is expected to nearly double its global headcount to 100,000 by the end of the year.

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