DiscoverYour Undivided AttentionTikTok’s Transparency Problem
TikTok’s Transparency Problem

TikTok’s Transparency Problem

Update: 2023-03-024


A few months ago on Your Undivided Attention, we released a Spotlight episode on TikTok's national security risks. Since then, we've learned more about the dangers of the China-owned company: We've seen evidence of TikTok spying on US journalists, and proof of hidden state media accounts to influence the US elections. We’ve seen Congress ban TikTok on most government issued devices, and more than half of US states have done the same, along with dozens of US universities who are banning TikTok access from university wifi networks. More people in Western governments and media are saying that they used to believe that TikTok was an overblown threat. As we've seen more evidence of  national security risks play out, there’s even talk of banning TikTok itself in certain countries. But is that the best solution? If we opt for a ban, how do we, as open societies, fight accusations of authoritarianism? 

On this episode of Your Undivided Attention, we're going to do a deep dive into these questions with Marc Faddoul. He's the co-director of Tracking Exposed, a nonprofit investigating the influence of social media algorithms in our lives. His work has shown how TikTok tweaks its algorithm to maximize partisan engagement in specific national elections, and how it bans international news in countries like Russia that are fighting propaganda battles inside their own borders. In other words, we don't all get the same TikTok because there are different geopolitical interests that might guide which TikTok you see. That is a kind of soft power that TikTok operates on a global scale, and it doesn’t get talked about often enough.

We hope this episode leaves you with a lot to think about in terms of what the risks of TikTok are, how it's operating geopolitically, and what we can do about it.


Tracking Exposed Special Report: TikTok Content Restriction in Russia
How has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected the content that TikTok users see in Russia? [Part 1 of Tracking Exposed series]

Tracking Exposed Special Report: Content Restrictions on TikTok in Russia Following the Ukrainian War
How are TikTok’s policy decisions affecting pro-war and anti-war content in Russia? [Part 2 of Tracking Exposed series]

Tracking Exposed Special Report: French Elections 2022
The visibility of French candidates on TikTok and YouTube search engines

The Democratic Surround by Fred Turner
A dazzling cultural history that demonstrates how American intellectuals, artists, and designers from the 1930s-1960s imagined new kinds of collective events that were intended to promote a powerful experience of American democracy in action


When Media Was for You and Me with Fred Turner

Addressing the TikTok Threat

A Fresh Take on Tech in China with Rui Ma and Duncan Clark

Your Undivided Attention is produced by the Center for Humane Technology. Follow us on Twitter: @HumaneTech_









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TikTok’s Transparency Problem

TikTok’s Transparency Problem

Marc Faddoul, Tristan Harris