It is the turn of the Senate to look into the thorny case of TikTok. The institution has indeed opened an investigation focusing on the operation of the most popular application of the moment, in particular its algorithm with many gray areas. The objective is now to determine whether the social network complies with French legislation on censorship and user protection.
Any TikTok user will tell you without flinching: what makes the strength of the social network is the unequaled precision of its algorithm. Each newsfeed is unique and, after just a few hours of scrolling, fits perfectly with the interests of the person holding the smartphone. Such power necessarily raises questions about the means implemented to obtain this result, not to mention the Chinese origin of the application which has been lacking since its inception.
While the United States has shown its distrust of the social network for some time, Europe has recently joined it, in particular by prohibiting its use by members of the Commission. In France, the CNIL is also interested in the use that the application makes of the personal data of its users, and the regulatory body is no longer alone. In effect, the Senate announced the opening of an investigation aimed at determining the ins and outs of this famous algorithm.
The Senate will scrutinize the TikTok algorithm
Concretely, senators now have the task of discovering “if these differences in operation have the purpose or effect of serving a strategy to harm foreign users of TikTok, the cohesion or the security of foreign States”. To do this, they will have recourse to several expert hearings on the subject, the first of which, Marc Faddoul, has already had the opportunity to meet the investigators.
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According to the artificial intelligence researcher, specialist in algorithms, it is imperative to beware of the methods employed by TikTok. If American social networks are also to be watched on this point, Marc Faddoul explains that the Chinese government most certainly has an influence on the operation of the application. And the latter to cite examples of censorship that have occurred in the past, in particular concerning content about the Tian’anmen Square Protests.
This is not the only gray area of the algorithm that worries the expert. Indeed, he also alerted the senators to the principle of “ heating “. As a reminder, this is a process that allows TikTok employees to make any video viral, simply by clicking a button. “We don’t have proof that political messages were pushed like this, but the functionality exists”emphasizes Marc Faddoul.
France joins the suspicions around TikTok
“We are unable to say that TikTok is not a potential instrument of disinformation or manipulation for the benefit of undemocratic regimes or that its use is safe with regard to the necessary data protection”, thus declared Senator Malhuret.
TikTok now has no choice: the application will have to reveal itself a little more to the authorities if it wishes to continue to prosper in France, and more generally in the West. As such, the Chinese firm has embarked ona European tour to reassure regulators. This Friday, March 10, Jean-Noël Barrot, Minister for the Digital Transition, met Erich Andersen, Secretary General of TikTok.
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A meeting that ended with a major announcement for the social network, which now claims to have found an partner responsible for ensuring compliance with European legislationin terms of data protection. This Monday, it was Roch-Olivier Maistre, president of Arcom, who was able to speak with the spokesperson. The countdown is now on.