TikTok has released its first transparency report that details which countries have submitted requests for content removal as well as access to user data, and hey, India ranks number one in that. Not surprising given the whole TikTok ban saga we witnessed last year.
The Indian government reportedly sent as many as 107 requests for user data and 11 requests to remove or restrict content or account on the platform, of which eight were categorised as emergency requests. A total of 143 accounts were specified in these requests.
The report does not specify how TikTok reached a verdict for each of these requests but does mention that the platform complied with 47 percent of these requests.
This transparency report compiles the data from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2019.
Representational Image. Credit: Reuters
Followed by India, is the US, which sent out 79 requests for user data, along with six requests for content takedowns. TikTok says it complied with 86 percent of the user data requests and restricted or blocked seven accounts related to the content takedown requests.
|Country||Legal Requests||Emergency Requests||Total Requests||Total Accounts Specified||Percentage of Requests Where Some Information Was Produced|
Table 1: Depicts the top 5 legal requests for user information received by TikTok.
Interestingly, China is absent from the report. TikTok claims it did not receive a single takedown request from the Communist Party of China in the first half of 2019. But this is probably because TikTok does not operate in China. The Chinese version of the app, which runs as a separate organisation, is called Douyin. There were allegations of TikTok taking down content related to the Hong Kong protests from other countries though. Whether that would come under China requesting content takedown is open to interpretation.
|Country||Government Requests||Total Accounts Specified||Accounts Removed or Restricted||Content Removed or Restricted|
Table 2: Depicts top 5 government requests received by TikTok to remove or restrict content.
Per the report, TikTok also received 35 requests from Japan, 12 from Germany, 11 from Norway, eight from France, six each from the UK, Sweden and South Korea, five from Australia, three each from Israel and Italy, two from Poland and one each from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland and Turkey.
TikTok head of public policy, Eric Ebenstein also reveals how the company decides to comply with a takedown request or how it considers any such requests in the first place. He writes in a blog, “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 local law.”
TikTok adds that any “information request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency, to determine whether, for example, the requesting entity is authorised to gather evidence in connection with a law enforcement investigation or to investigate an emergency involving imminent harm.”