FT: Former Chinese government official ran TikTok’s content policy as app went global
Fri October, 2020, Age: 2 years
The Financial Times has revealed that until earlier this year, a former Chinese government official named Cai Zheng ran ByteDance’s global content policy team in Beijing. Mr. Cai joined ByteDance in 2018, when the company was under scrutiny for the content of TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin. As a result of these pressures, ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming was forced to issue a public apology in which he promised to “further deepen cooperation with authoritative [official party] media…[and] ensure that authoritative [official party] media voices are broadcast to strength.” TikTok has now devolved responsibility for forming content policy and moderating videos to hubs in Los Angeles, Dublin, Singapore and Silicon Valley. However, the heads of these regional offices still report back to a global head of trust and safety in Beijing, who is mostly known inside ByteDance by the pseudonym Yuyi F. This news casts doubt on TikTok’s supposed independence from its owner, as well as reinforcing concerns that its opaque algorithms censor content even as the widely popular app increasingly influences America’s younger generations.