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TikTok Shares Transparency Report Amid Suspicions of Chinese Censorship

TikTok released its first-ever transparency report on Monday in a seeming effort to combat claims that the video-sharing app — which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance — has been complying with content takedown requests from the Chinese government and the country's ruling Communist party.

The report, which covers the first six months of 2019, lists a total of 278 requests for user data and content removal from 28 countries during that time period, including a total of 110 from India, 74 from the U.S. and 31 from Japan. China is not one of the countries listed.

In a blog post announcing the report, TikTok’s director of public policy Eric Ebenstein laid out the rationale behind its release.

“To foster candid dialogue essential to earning and maintaining trust, we're releasing our first Transparency Report this year to show how we responsibly engage with government bodies in the markets where TikTok operates,” he wrote.

Later in the post, Ebenstein states that TikTok will begin regularly releasing these reports, with one covering the second half of 2019 “to follow in the coming months.”

Monday’s report additionally includes data on takedown notices from copyright holders, of which 3,345 were lodged in the first six months of 2019. According to the company, 85 percent of these requests were honored.

TikTok has come under intense scrutiny for its relationship to China in recent months, partially stemming from a Washington Post report that indicated the app had been censoring content related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Weeks later, multiple outlets reported that the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) had opened an inquiry into ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of the U.S.-based app Musical.ly in 2017. The CFIUS — which reviews foreign investment in U.S. companies for possible national security risks — had reportedly engaged in talks with TikTok about divesting from Musical.ly, which was absorbed into the TikTok platform in August 2018. In a statement sent to Billboard at the time, a TikTok spokesperson stated, "While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the US. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so.”