TikTok has released its first transparency report for the first half of 2019, revealing details of legal information and content take down requests it received in each country. India was on top when it came to requests for removing content, and overall legal requests. The United States was number two in the number of requests. TikTok’s report is only for the first half of 2019, meaning from January 1 to June 30, 2019, so the overall requests for 2019 is likely higher. TikTok’s report makes no mention of China, at all which is significant, considering it is owned by China-based Byte-Dance.
Companies like Facebook, Google and Apple also do such transparency reports each year. This is the first for TikTok, which has grown sharply in popularity during the course of 2019, and is dominating in markets like India with close to 200 million users. It has also seen its popularity rise in the United States. TikTok has also faced criticism over concerns of censorship.
In the transparency report, India had over 99 legal requests to TikTok, and eight emergency requests, bringing the total requests to 107. There were 143 accounts specified in these requests, and TikTok claims it complied with around 47 per cent of these requests.
The United States has 68 legal requests, 11 emergency requests, which meant a total of 79 requests. In these, information about 255 accounts was demanded, and TikTok complied with 86 per cent of these requests. Next on the list with highest requests was Japan with 28 legal requests, 7 emergency requests and 39 account requests. TikTok says it complied with 21 per cent of these requests.
Regarding content take down requests from governments, India was once again at the top. India made a total of 11 government requests, and nine total accounts were specified, while eight accounts were removed or restricted. TikTok claims it took down or restricted content in four of the requests.
United States was number two in terms of content removal requests with six government requests, and seven accounts were specified. TikTok restricted seven accounts and removed/restricted content in one request.
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TikTok also revealed details about content take-down requests from copyright owners. It received around 3345 content requests over IP issues, and complied with 85 per cent over copyright issues.
“We take any request from government bodies extremely seriously, and closely review each such request we receive to determine whether, for example, the request adheres to the required legal process or the content violates a local law. TikTok is committed to assisting law enforcement in appropriate circumstances while respecting the privacy and rights of our users,” notes the company in its report.
The countries mentioned in the TikTok report are the ones where it operates. The company also says that it “did not receive any requests from countries other than those listed”. One name missing in the list of TikTok’s countries is China, where the app is known by the name Douyin.
In the past, there has been criticism over TikTok and its relationship with China. Last year, a TikTok makeup blogger Feroza Aziz had her account suspended, after she posted a video which she talked about China’s mass detentions of Uighurs, the minority Muslims in the North-West part of the country.
TikTok’s parent Bytedance had said that the reason was Aziz was blocked because she used a previous account to post a video that contained an image of Osama bin Laden. The company later apologised for removing the account, calling it a mistake and blamed it on human error.
TikTok was also accused of censoring content in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have raged for most of 2019. TikTok denied it has removed any content on requests from the Chinese government, and had said that all of its data servers and business were “located entirely outside of China, and none of the data is subject to Chinese law.”
“We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore,” TikTok had said at the time.