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TikTok hires lawyers to review its policies after censorship claims

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  • TikTok is a popular short-form video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the highest-valued private company in the world.
  • Internal documents viewed by The Guardian showed that the company had censored content that could anger the Chinese government. 
  • TikTok’s US general manager posted a statement announcing that two former members of Congress will be part of a team reviewing new content moderation policies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

TikTok announced on Tuesday that it is working with a team including two former US lawmakers to review its new content moderation policy.

The company hired former Rep. Bart Gordon and former Congressman Jeff Denham, of law firm K&L Gates, to “further strengthen our teams, moderation policies, and overall transparency,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The law firm will work with TikTok to revise moderation policies on “child safety, hate speech, misinformation, bullying, and other potential issues.” The committee will also work to “further increase transparency around our content moderation policies and the practices we employ to protect our community,” according to the statement.

The company, which is growing quickly and hiring employees from other Silicon Valley companies including Facebook and Hulu, said that it is building this committee to “tackle the challenges that our continued rapid expansion will bring.”

The short-form video platform, which has jumped to be the top free non-gaming app with more than 1 billion users, has recently been criticized for censoring content that might offend governments in markets where it operates. In September, The Guardian saw internal documents that instructed moderators to censor content that could anger the Chinese government, including mentions of Tiananmen Square or Tibetan Independence. In a statement, TikTok said that these policies were no longer in use as of last May.

Read more: TikTok is Mark Zuckerberg’s worst nightmare, and now it’s reportedly poaching Facebook’s employees too

Earlier this month, Senator Marco Rubio asked the US government to investigate TikTok, based on “ample and growing evidence” that the platform censors content as directed by China. 

A TikTok spokesperson told Business Insider earlier this month that the Chinese government doesn’t have jurisdiction over content, because the platform doesn’t technically exist in China. Instead, the Chinese version of the app is called Douyin.

The Guardian also saw documents that showed TikTok censored LGBTQ content in Turkey. In a statement to Business Insider last month, the company said that there were no longer specific guidelines for LGBTQ content in Turkey, but it is moving towards a “more robust localized approach,” meaning that it could still employ country-specific censorship. This legal team will focus on US content moderation, according to the statement.

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