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TikTok tells Australia government it will make source code available for inspection

TikTok has told an Australian government committee that it will allow government officials to review its algorithm and test its source code, as it seeks to overcome distrust surrounding the video-streaming app operator's China ownership. TikTok's owner ByteDance has reached a deal with Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc that it hopes will end U.S. plans to ban TikTok in the United States on security grounds.

Reuters | Melbourne | Updated: 25-09-2020 13:20 IST | Created: 25-09-2020 13:18 IST
TikTok tells Australia government it will make source code available for inspection
Representative image Image Credit: Flickr

TikTok has told an Australian government committee that it will allow government officials to review its algorithm and test its source code, as it seeks to overcome distrust surrounding the video-streaming app operator's China ownership.

TikTok's owner ByteDance has reached a deal with Oracle Corp and Walmart Inc that it hopes will end U.S. plans to ban TikTok in the United States on security grounds. It said the deal will see the creation of a standalone U.S. firm, TikTok Global, that does not involve any transfer of technology, though Oracle will be able to inspect TikTok source code. TikTok's Australian executives appeared in Canberra on Friday before the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, where they said the computer instructions that guide the content presented to TikTok users would be made more widely available for inspection.

"(It will be) available in a public setting for regulators, governments, commercial entities to come in and to test our code", Global Chief Security Officer Roland Cloutier said via video link. In its written submission to the committee, TikTok said qualified government personnel could review its algorithm and test its source code at a transparency and accountability centre in Los Angeles in the United States and another to be built in Washington, or through virtual tours of the centres.

During questioning, Cloutier also said TikTok's source code was not the same as the source code used for ByteDance's Chinese version Douyin. Under its deal, ByteDance has said it will establish a U.S. subsidiary of which it will own 80%.

Oracle and WalMart, however, said majority ownership of TikTok Global would be in American hands, complying with an Aug. 14 executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump that ByteDance relinquish ownership of TikTok within 90 days. TikTok's Australia General Manager Lee Hunter said the "deal is ongoing" and he did not have knowledge of the discussions.

TikTok was registered as a business in Australia last year, and two of three directors of the Australian company are senior executives of ByteDance.


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