One of the most popular social media sites for teens around the world, TikTok released an update to its “community rules” on Wednesday 8 January. They establish what is authorized or not on the platform, owner of the Chinese giant ByteDance. Grouped into ten points, these rules are clear and very close to those in force on other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram: they prohibit in particular violent, sexual content, hate speech or harassment.
Neither of these rules mentions a ban on political positions. In late 2019, the social network was accused of censoring or limiting the broadcasting of videos concerning the protests in Hong Kong or the ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang against the Uighur population. The social network had pleaded “mistakes” at the time.
Additional rules depending on the country
TikTok's moderation practices were also widely criticized in late 2019, after publication by the British daily The Guardian documents revealing the internal moderation rules applied by the social network. TikTok explained at the time that these rules were old and were no longer applied. The documents notably showed that in Turkey, where homosexuality is not illegal, the videos describing “Intimate activities (holding hands, touching, kissing) between homosexual people” were not allowed on the platform.
A list of topics “Prohibited”, which included as well “Separatism, religious conflicts” or the evocation of personalities like Gandhi, Kim Jong-un or even Barack Obama, also appeared in the documents of the Guardian. They are not mentioned in the new rules published on January 8, even if TikTok does not specify which additional rules may be applied depending on the country.
Because, beyond its general moderation rules, TikTok explains, in another recently updated document, applying the specific laws of the countries in which it is present, and collaborating with the police services which make it legal requests – a classic practice of all social networks. The company also published this December 30 its first “Transparency Report”, a common practice among major Western social networks, which read in more or less detail each year the number of requests received in each country from the forces. of the order. The first TikTok report did not mention any requests from the Chinese authorities.
Several security holes discovered in the TikTok social network
Several security vulnerabilities have been discovered in the popular TikTok social network by computer security experts at the Israeli company CheckPoint, the company announced on Wednesday (January 8th).
From the TikTok website, it was possible for hackers to send text messages to users as if they were from the social network with links of their choice. These could therefore be malicious and contain viruses or lead to a phishing page.
Combined with other vulnerabilities on the TikTok website, this bug also allowed hackers to impersonate a user of the social network, take control of their account, post new videos, upload delete or make public videos that are supposed to be hidden. Another defect also made it possible to access information contained in the user’s account and supposed to remain confidential, such as the e-mail address.
The researchers did not say whether these possibilities were actually exploited by hackers. Warned by the researchers, TikTok fixed these bugs on December 15, according to the New york times. The American authorities have already denounced on several occasions another risk which TikTok represents for them, namely that the social network could allow the Chinese authorities to suck up the data of their users. Always according to New york times, a government inquiry was even launched on this subject.