Forbes, which broke the story, continues to stand by its sources and article.
TikTok is denying a Thursday report from Forbes that claimed its parent company, ByteDance, planned to use location information to monitor specific American citizens.
The report focused on BytDance’s Internal Audit and Risk Control department, which is led by a Bejing executive. The department’s main purpose is to investigate current and former ByteDance employees in cases of misconduct, but according to Forbes, they have planned to collect the location data of U.S. citizens with no employment history with the company. In its report, Forbes noted that it is unclear whether or not the data was actually collected from devices by a Beijing-based team.
TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan told Forbes that they collect approximate location information to “among other things, help show relevant content and ads to users, comply with applicable laws, and detect and prevent fraud and inauthentic behavior.”
But according to Forbes’ materials, ByteDance’s Internal Audit team was planning to use this location information to surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads. When asked, ByteDance did not answer questions about whether their Internal Audit team has specifically targeted U.S. government officials, activists, or journalists.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, TikTok and ByteDance denied Forbes’ claims.
“Forbes chose not to include the portion of our statement that disproved the feasibility of its core allegation: TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from US users, meaning TikTok could not monitor US users in the way the article suggested,” one tweet stated.
“TikTok has never been used to ‘target’ any members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists, nor do we serve them a different content experience than other users,” the thread continued.
“Stand by Our Reporting”
When asked to comment, Forbes spokesperson Bill Hankes said to Variety, “We are confident in our sourcing, and we stand by our reporting.”
The author of the article, Emily Baker-White, also responded to TikTok’s accusations on Friday.
“We never mentioned GPS in the story. In fact, we quoted their spokesperson saying they collect approx location via IP address,” she tweeted. “Not using GPS does not mean they could not use that approx location to monitor certain individuals. Neither TikTok nor ByteDance denied anything we reported, either in the pre-publication process, when we told them what we planned to report and asked for comment, or since then. They have also not requested a story update.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (New York Post) (Variety)
#TrumpIsDead: Comedian Tests Twitter Moderation Under Elon Musk With Fake Hashtag
A Twitter exec said the platform is “focused on addressing the surge in hate content.”
The fake hashtag #TrumpIsDead began to trend on Twitter Tuesday afternoon as many used the phrase to protest the lack of moderation that has occurred on the platform since billionaire Elon Musk took over last week.
Comedian Tim Heidecker started the hashtag with a series of tweets last night.
“Here’s what we know: 1. Trump is dead (died badly) 2. @elonmusk has suppressed this news (or has he?) 3. Donald Trump Junior is now just plain Donald Trump. Please like and share,” he said
The former president is not dead but others joined the hashtag with open criticisms of Elon Musk and the way content has been moderated on Twitter recently, including the conspiracy theory Musk shared himself on Sunday about the attack on Paul Pelosi.
“If only Twitter had some kind of policy about spreading disinformation, but I guess since Elon himself did it the other day, it’s all fair game,” one person wrote.
Twitter has seen a sharp rise in the use of slurs and hateful content since Musk took charge. According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, the platform saw a 500% spike in the use of the n-word in the first 12 hours following the Tesla and SpaceX exec’s deal with Twitter officially closing.
However, Twitter’s Head of Safety & Integrity Yoel Roth tweeted on Monday that the company is taking action against the spike.
“Since Saturday, we’ve been focused on addressing the surge in hateful conduct on Twitter,” Roth said. “We’ve made measurable progress, removing more than 1500 accounts and reducing impressions on this content to nearly zero.”
But Roth did go on to say that some who report hateful content are receiving notifications saying the post they reported is not a violation. This is happening, Roth says, because Twitter treats “first person” and “bystander” reports differently, weighing bystander reports less heavily.
Musk has reported that he will be forming a content moderation council and will not be making any major content decisions until then.
See what others are saying: (Insider) (Washington Post) (Newsweek)
Job Listings Suggest TikTok is Planning U.S. Fulfillment Centers
TikTok is looking to take on online shopping giants in its latest e-commerce move.
Insight from Job Postings
Social media platform TikTok has proven to be a major competitor for Meta’s Instagram and Facebook. Now it might just be taking aim at Amazon.
As first reported by Axios, job postings suggest that TikTok has started planning the building of global fulfillment centers in the U.S. for its e-commerce pursuits. TikTok has recently added more than a dozen LinkedIn postings for positions in Seattle and Los Angeles, including positions like Operation Research Engineer and Logistics Solution Manager.
TikTok has been executing a steady shift into e-commerce recently. The video app partnered with Shopify last summer, allowing merchants to have their storefronts on TikTok. TikTok is also negotiating a partnership with TalkShopLive for live shopping access in the United States.
A Shift to E-Commerce
While live shopping has been popular in Asia, it has not drawn the same attention in western countries. But, if the aforementioned partnership comes to fruition, live shopping in North America and the U.K. could see a substantial increase.
If their shopping features become popular, TikTok could be a serious competitor to online shopping giants like Amazon. In fact, TikTok is said to be working on a free return system similar to that of Amazon, though it does not appear to be working on its own ground transportation
Woman Sues Meta, Claiming Instagram Gave Her an Eating Disorder
The lawsuit features previously unreported documents in which the company identified tweens as “herd animals” who “want to find communities where they can fit in.”
From Webkinz to Anorexia
Instagram’s parent company Meta has been hit with a lawsuit alleging the social media platform deliberately targets children and directs them toward content that’s harmful for mental health and body image issues.
The Social Media Victims Law Center, which filed the suit, is representing Alexis Spence, a now 19-year-old woman who says Instagram played a large role in causing her anxiety, depression, eating disorder, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. The group is also representing Spence’s parents, who filed the suit with their daughter.
It is the first such lawsuit to heavily cite the Facebook Files, a cache of leaked documents published by The Wall Street Journal last fall showing the company knew for years that Instagram harmed a large proportion of users, especially teen girls.
Spence created her first Instagram account when she was 11 years old. A year and a half later, she drew a picture of herself in a diary with a phone, laptop and speech bubbles saying words like “stupid,” “ugly” and “worthless.”
“It did start very innocently,” she told NBC’s Joshua Johnson. “I actually started, I don’t know if you know what they are, but Webkinz. It’s a stuffed animal. It started out as that and I remember one day seeing a hashtag. It was hashtag #Ana. And I was like, ‘oh, what’s that?’ And curiosity got the best of me. I looked into it and it was an abbreviation for anorexia.”
“And then that content started flooding my explore page and promoting anorexia and eating disorders, and then that led into other self-harm and suicidal thoughts,” she continued.
Spence said in a statement she became addicted to Instagram, eventually being hospitalized for her mental health issues.
She added that she “fights to stay in recovery every day.”
“If you look at the extensive research that it [Meta] performed, they knew exactly what they were doing to kids, and they kept doing it,” Matthew P. Bergman, founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center, was quoted by NBC as saying. “I wish I could say that Alexis’ case is aberrational. It’s not. The only aberration is that she survived.”
The Center wrote in a statement: “As a result of Alexis’ addiction to Instagram, she had to undergo professional counseling, in-patient programs, out-patient programs, participate in eating disorder programs and will likely require help in the form of a service dog for the rest of her life, as well as ongoing medical attention to ensure she does not digress.”
The Facebook Files Expose Complicity
The lawsuit against Meta features previously unreported documents from the Facebook Files in which the company identified tweens as “herd animals” who “want to find communities where they can fit in.”
“The social media giant spent millions of dollars researching and developing product features to attract and retain a steady stream of pre-teen users despite warnings from Meta employees that its products were addictive and harmful to its users,” Bergman said in a statement.
Bergman is also representing Tammy Rodriguez, a woman who sued Meta and Snap in January over the companies’ alleged roles in her 11-year-old daughter’s suicide last summer.
Meta executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, have downplayed the platform’s harmful effects on young users, citing data purporting to show that Instagram actually helps some users.
“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” another slide from 2019 said.
One presentation showed that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.