TikTok’s new plan to avoid getting banned in the US

The app will consider letting Oracle and others police its algorithm.

Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The TikTok algorithm is so good that it can basically read your mind. It figures out your preferences — be they ‘90s nostalgia, astrology, or skin care — and recommends video after video to keep its 1B+ users transfixed by its infinite feed.

Now, to maintain ownership of its US operations, TikTok will consider allowing third-party monitors to review its vaunted algorithm, according to The Wall Street Journal

US regulators are skeptical of TikTok for two main reasons

  1. Surveillance: China, which can request data from any Chinese company, including TikTok parent ByteDance, could use the app to spy on American users, who share personal data with TikTok.
  2. The algorithm: Officials believe it could be tweaked to manipulate users.

US Rep. Mike Gallagher told the WSJ he fears Chinese officials could hide videos criticizing the country’s regime or highlight propaganda. About 33% of TikTok users get news from the app.

In 2020, US TikTok executives discovered employees in China had rejiggered the algorithm to downplay certain videos about the US election.

To soothe these concerns…

TikTok is now sending all data from US users to business partner Oracle. The potential next step is letting Oracle and other third parties review TikTok’s algorithm.

  • The monitors would check for any manipulations to the algorithm.
  • Concerns would be brought to TikTok leadership and potentially the US government.

TikTok wants to move quickly, but the process ahead may be arduous. Skepticism of TikTok runs deep among US politicians, and the Chinese government would likely need to approve any deal regarding the algorithm.

Meanwhile: If you’re not convinced about the power of the algorithm, just know that Walmart is now selling the Pink Sauce that kept showing up in your TikTok feed last summer.

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