March 18, 2020 / 1:49 PM / 18 days ago

TikTok reveals first members of new U.S. content-moderation committee

(Reuters) - Chinese social video app TikTok named the initial members of a U.S.-focused content moderation committee to advise on its policies on Wednesday, as it faces U.S. scrutiny over data-sharing and censorship concerns.

A TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The council, which it announced in October, will meet every few months to give “unvarnished views” and advice on content moderation policies and evaluate the company’s actions.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, has made a series of bids to boost transparency as it faces scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over its data security practices and concerns it engages in censorship at the behest of the Chinese government.

The company, which has been criticized after former guidelines to suppress users’ content based on their physical appearance were leaked to media outlets, has also come under pressure to curb misinformation ahead of the U.S. presidential election and during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Reuters search found TikTok videos repeating debunked false claims, including that the coronavirus might have come from a bioweapons ‘super laboratory.’

The company has said U.S. user data is stored in the United States and that China does not have jurisdiction over content outside China.

TikTok said its ‘Content Advisory Council,’ will grow to about a dozen members.

The council’s first meeting at the end of March will focus on topics around “platform integrity, including policies against misinformation and election interference.”

The group will be chaired by Dawn Nunziato, a professor at George Washington University Law School and co-director of the Global Internet Freedom Project.

The other six founding members include Hany Farid, an expert on deepfakes and digital image forensics, tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar, and experts on issues from child safety to voter information.

Last week, TikTok announced it had set up a “transparency center” in Los Angeles to show regulators and the public how it how it reviews content. [nL4N2B4387]

In November, the U.S. government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of U.S. social media app Musical.ly. Two senators have also introduced a bill to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones.[nL1N2B42Y3][nL2N27H18O]

Facebook Inc is currently in the process of creating an independent oversight board to review appealed content decisions. In 2016, Twitter Inc formed a ‘Trust and Safety Council’ of groups and experts to provide advice. [nL1N29W1RZ]

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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