Tag: app

Former Chinese government official ran TikTok’s content policy as app went global

A former Chinese government official in his late twenties was in charge of deciding what content should be allowed on TikTok as the short-video app became a smash hit around the world, according to two people close to the company.

Cai Zheng, who worked in China’s embassy in Tehran for four years according to a now deleted LinkedIn profile, ran ByteDance’s global content policy team in Beijing until early this year, when the company accelerated a move to let its biggest markets make their own decisions about what videos should be removed. 

The revelation that Mr Cai was at the heart of TikTok’s policymaking team raises questions about repeated denials from ByteDance, the app’s Beijing-based owner, that the Chinese government has any influence over TikTok’s operations. 

TikTok has been painted as a security threat to the US by Donald Trump and the app is trying to restructure its ownership and operations in partnership with Oracle and Walmart to avoid a total ban. It has been banned in India, previously its largest market by number of users.

Mr Cai joined ByteDance in 2018, at a time when the company was under intense scrutiny by Beijing for the videos it was running on TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin, among other issues. The pressure forced chief executive Zhang Yiming to issue an apology and to tack closer to the government line. 

The former diplomat sat within ByteDance’s global trust and safety team in Beijing and wrote guidelines for what videos were acceptable on TikTok and other international apps including Helo and Vigo Video.

According to the people close to the company, Mr Cai was far from being a Communist Party ideologue, but his background and training may have influenced how he, and a team of young mostly Chinese policy analysts, implemented a strategy to keep controversial content off the short-video app.

During his stint, TikTok was accused of suppressing videos that upset Beijing’s sensitivities, including one by a teenage American girl which sought to raise awareness of the mass imprisonment of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. TikTok has denied suppressing politically sensitive videos and said the video was removed in error. 

Last September, documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper, and confirmed as authentic by the people close to the company, suggested that TikTok banned videos about Tibetan and Taiwanese independence, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Falun Gong movement.

TikTok said these policies were out of date and the documents were labelled as historical, although one person said content moderators still had access to them at the time of the leak.

“Cai Zheng was not involved in developing the policies [ . . .] as these policies predated him,” said a TikTok spokesperson. “He worked with our growing regional and local teams on localisation of our early content policies.”

Mr Cai could

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U.S. government appeals judge’s ruling to block WeChat app store ban

By David Shepardson



FILE PHOTO: The messenger app WeChat is seen among U.S. flags in this illustration picture


© Reuters/Florence Lo
FILE PHOTO: The messenger app WeChat is seen among U.S. flags in this illustration picture


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Friday said it was appealing a judge’s decision to block the government from barring Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google from offering Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat for download in U.S. app stores.

The government said it was appealing the Sept. 19 preliminary junction issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The injunction blocked the U.S. Commerce Department order, which would also bar other U.S. transactions with Tencent Holding’s WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.

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A U.S. spokesman for Tencent did not immediately comment.

The Justice Department said earlier that Beeler’s order was in error and “permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Lawyers for the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, the group behind the legal challenge to the WeChat ban, said on Friday the department “has still presented no compelling national security interest to justify such an unprecedented ban” and will oppose the effort.

The group noted Tencent tried to negotiate a settlement with the Commerce Department and offered a number of mitigation measures to address data security concerns.

Beeler said WeChat users “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.” The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech.

WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.

WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.

On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington issued a similar preliminary injunction to halt the U.S. app store ban on new TikTok downloads. Nichols has not decided whether to block other restrictions set to take effect on Nov. 12 that could effectively ban the app’s use, pending a series of court filings due by Oct. 30.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

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India open to launching own app store as start-ups criticise Google – government source

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is open to launching its own mobile app store or expanding an existing one if it receives enough demand from domestic firms for an alternative to Apple AAPL.O and Google platforms, a senior government official said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

The country has some 500 million smartphone users, most of whom use Google’s Android platform, but Indian start-ups have criticised the company for policies they say stifle their growth.

SoftBank-backed 9984.T Paytm, one of India’s leading payments firms, protested against the U.S. tech giant’s decision to remove its app for a few hours last month citing violations of gambling policies.

Alphabet-owned GOOGL.O Google also said this week that it will strictly enforce a policy which will levy a 30% commission on payments made within apps on its Android store.

In response to an earlier media report, a senior Indian official told Reuters New Delhi hasn’t received any formal request but was willing to consider developing a mobile platform where apps could be downloaded.

“Before we open one we need to know there will be takers for it,” said the government official, declining to be named as he is not authorised to speak with media.

India already runs a mobile app store that lists over 1200 mainly government-backed applications, but also Paytm, and the government could also consider expanding that instead of starting from scratch, the official added.

India’s technology ministry, Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Google has previously said that fewer than 3% of developers with apps on its Play store sold digital goods over the last 12 months, and nearly 97% comply with its payment system policy.

Nonetheless, several Indian start-up founders are calling for a local app store that doesn’t charge a high service fee.

“It’s absolutely necessary to have a local app store,” said Vishal Gondal, co-founder of Bengaluru-based gaming firm nCore Games.

“If we have to give 30% fees to Google and also pay for customer acquisition, how will our budding businesses survive?”

Paytm disagreed with Google’s assessment but removed certain promotions to have its app reinstated. The company’s founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has said in interviews that Google was acting as “judge, jury and executioner”.

Without referring to Paytm by name, Google later said its policies were aimed at protecting users from potential harm and were applied and enforced on all developers consistently.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal in New Delhi; Editing by Aditya Kalra, Kirsten Donovan

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