TikTok has appointed a 'Safety Advisory Council' in Asia-Pacific comprised of content, policy and academic experts from across the region, who will advise the young platform on issues related to online trust and safety.
The external council will convene quarterly for discussions on key issues such as online safety, child safety, digital literacy, mental health and human rights. It will report on observations and submit formal recommendations to TikTok on how to address the issues discussed, including how the company should evolve its content-moderation policies and practices, as well as its regional and global guidelines.
The council will also be tasked with using its expertise to identify existing and emerging issues in the region that affect TikTok’s platforms and users, and developing strategies to tackle these challenges.
There are seven founding council members from different markets in Asia-Pacific; a mixture of activists, advocates and academics across fields such as cyber wellness, mental well-being, minor protection and misinformation.
TikTok plans to expand the council with representatives from other markets in the region "in the future".
The founding members of TikTok’s APAC Safety Advisory Council are:
- Yuhyun Park, founder of DQ Institute, Singapore: Brings expertise in digital literacy, skills and readiness
- Jehan Ara, president of Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES and founder of The Nest i/o: Expert in the IT industry
- Amitabh Kumar, founder of Social Media Matters, India: Known for his initiatives on social digital campaigns and digital safety programmes focused on gender sensitisation, digital rights and online safety.
- Nguyen Phuong Linh, executive director of Management and Sustainable Development Institute, Vietnam: Advocates for the rights of marginalised groups, especially children, youth, women and people with disabilities
- Akira Sakamoto, professor at the Department of Psychology, Ochanomizu University, Japan: Focuses on the intersection of media and digital literacy
- Seungwoo Son, professor of industrial security, Chung-Ang University, South Korea: Expert on intellectual property and internet law, which includes defamation, pornography and misinformation
- Anita Wahid, activist at Gusdurian Network Indonesia and president of MAFINDO (Indonesia Anti-Hoax Society): An activist at the intersection of human rights and anti-hoax who understands child-safety issues and religious content needs.
TikTok said it made a deliberate choice to bring on board experts with "strong independent opinions and the courage to challenge our thinking".
"Hearing from a diverse set of voices is valuable for TikTok when crafting products, policies and processes to serve the evolving needs of our growing community," the company said in a statement.
Arjun Narayan, director of trust and safety Asia Pacific at TikTok, said the council will provide "constructive, sound and honest advice as TikTok continues to strengthen its content policies in Asia Pacific".
Council member Yuhyun Park, the founder of DQ Institute, said it is "encouraging" that TikTok is committed to bring various experts' opinions across the region to enhance the platform's safety.
"I am working with TikTok with the goal of helping it become a unique platform to be safe, ethical, and compassionate while empowering people with creativity and confidence in the digital age," Park said.
In a recent interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, TikTok's global head of agency Lionel Sim said brand safety was the "biggest issue" affecting all online platforms, claiming this was more of a pressing concern for brands than TikTok's corporate challenges in the US and other markets.
But the two issues are intertwined. Data privacy is at the heart of government investigations into TikTok, with officials from the US, India, Pakistan and Australia all raising concerns that being owned by Chinese firm ByteDance means international user data could be shared with Beijing.
A deal being hammered out in the US, in which TikTok will set up a new US-headquartered business called TikTok Global that will be majority owned by American investors including Oracle, Walmart and others, goes some way to addressing these concerns. But with ByteDance retaining control of TikTok's algorithm and source code, the deal may not go far enough from a privacy and security standpoint.