Server hosting company to vet TikTok algorithms to avoid Chinese manipulation

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Oracle, the company that TikTok has partnered with to secure United States user data, said that it has begun vetting its algorithms to ensure China has not manipulated the data.

The server company began reviewing the social media platform’s algorithms and content moderation last week, according to Axios. The company agreed to partner with TikTok in June after Buzzfeed News revealed allegations that China-based employees could access U.S. user data, inspiring a new round of scrutiny from Congress.

The arrangement between Oracle and TikTok gives the server company “regular vetting and validation” of TikTok’s recommendations and moderation, according to a spokesperson. The company began the review process last week, although it is unclear when TikTok will finalize its transfer of U.S. data to Oracle servers.

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The reviews will help Oracle “ensure that outcomes are in line with expectations and that the models have not been manipulated in any way,” the spokesperson said.

Lawmakers have scrutinized the security practices of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. Congress has sent several letters requesting action to ensure that China can not access U.S. users’ data. Nine senators requested that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew answer questions about the company’s data practices, while Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked that the Federal Trade Commission initiate an investigation into TikTok’s data practices.

Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sent a letter to Chew asking him for additional details about employee access to data and the company’s potential compliance with China’s national intelligence.

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Chew has sent at least one response to Congress confirming that Chinese employees did have access to U.S. data, albeit through several security filters and precautions.

The company has also adjusted its security practices by having its chief security officer step down on July 15.

However, evidence has continued to pile up that ByteDance has close ties to the Chinese government. The company helped promote pro-China content in a news aggregator that it operated in the late 2010s, according to former employees. A review of LinkedIn also found that several ByteDance employees had a history of working in Chinese state media.