TikTok before US hearing with expanded community guidelines

Amid mounting political pressure, short-video app TikTok is revamping its community guidelines governing how content is handled on the platform. The innovations include, among other things, more detailed specifications as to which contributions may appear in the for-you feed, in which the clips are selected individually for users of software. The new guidelines are scheduled to go into effect on April 21.

Clips with false information about climate change that contradict scientific findings are not allowed. Videos containing characters or objects generated by software must now be clearly identified. It is expressly forbidden to imitate private individuals with computer representations, as TikTok announced on Tuesday.

TikTok also introduces more precise definitions for different types of physical damage when dealing with extreme sports or videos with challenges. This should provide more clarity when making decisions about individual videos. Clips depicting actions that could result in serious injury or death will generally be removed. In the case of less dangerous activities, however, the current directive only states in general that they are “possibly not permitted” for the for-you feed if there is a risk of physical damage.

The new version excludes activities that “can lead to moderate physical harm”. As such, TikTok now defines “small cuts with minimal blood loss and light bruises”. In the US in particular, TikTok is accused of not protecting young people enough from dangerous challenges. That should also be an issue when company boss Shou Zi Chew has to answer questions from members of the US Congress on Thursday.

TikTok with more than a billion worldwide and according to its own account more than 150 million active users in the USA is the only large online platform that is also successful in the West that does not come from the USA. The service is under increasing pressure because it belongs to the Chinese Bytedance group. Concerns are being expressed in the US and Europe that Chinese authorities and intelligence services could collect data about users via TikTok or influence them.

TikTok rejects the suspicions and emphasizes that it does not see itself as a subsidiary of a Chinese company, since Bytedance is 60 percent owned by western investors and has its headquarters in the Cayman Islands. Critics counter that the Chinese founders held 20 percent of the control thanks to higher voting rights and that Bytedance has a large headquarters in Beijing.


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