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Oracle Starts Auditing TikTok's Algorithms Amid Security Concerns

Tik Tok video
TikTok has more than 1 billion monthly users.
James Martin/CNET

What's happening

Oracle is starting to review TikTok's algorithms and content moderation models.

Why it matters

The review could help address concerns raised by regulators and US lawmakers about China's influence over the short-form video app. Chinese tech company ByteDance owns TikTok.

Oracle has started reviewing TikTok's algorithms and content moderation models as part of an effort to assure US lawmakers that the short-form video app is safeguarding user data amid security concerns.

Axios, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that Oracle began the review last week and that the company will help ensure that Chinese authorities aren't manipulating TikTok's algorithms. TikTok's algorithms help determine what videos the platform recommends to its more than 1 billion monthly active users. In June, TikTok announced it routed all US user traffic to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. 

TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter confirmed Axios' report but said TikTok didn't have anything further to add. Oracle didn't respond to a request for comment.

The review shows how TikTok is responding to security and privacy concerns about China's influence over the app. Chinese tech company ByteDance owns TikTok. TikTok has long denied it shares US user data with the Chinese Communist Party and reiterated to lawmakers in a June letter it wouldn't provide this information if the government requested it. The company has an effort called Project Texas that aims to strengthen security around US data.

But lawmakers and regulators still view TikTok as a possible national security threat. In June, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr urged Apple and Google in a letter to remove the app from their app stores. Carr said the app, used for sharing funny videos, wasn't what it appeared to be on the surface. The letter cited a report from BuzzFeed that said leaked audio from internal meetings showed that ByteDance employees in China have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users. 

National security concerns about TikTok heightened under former US President Donald Trump's administration. TikTok began partnering with Oracle in 2020 after Trump threatened to ban the app from the US. The Trump administration ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok but the current administration hasn't enforced this action.