China-Owned TikTok Is Racing To Move User Data To The US

So far, Project Texas appears to be primarily an exercise in geography, one that seems well-positioned to address concerns about the Chinese government accessing Americans’ personal information. But it does not address other ways that China could weaponize the platform, like tweaking TikTok algorithms to increase exposure to divisive content, or adjusting the platform to seed or encourage disinformation campaigns.

Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told BuzzFeed News that the Chinese government’s influence on TikTok’s algorithms is a more pressing concern than data exfiltration. “I’ve never seen a particularly good argument about what the Chinese could get from TikTok data that they can’t get from hundreds of other sources,” he said. But he did point to examples of the Chinese Communist Party using technology to warp digital discourse, including TikTok’s previous censorship of speech harmful to China’s “national honor,” and a 2020 attempt by a China-based Zoom employee to disrupt video meetings commemorating the Tiananmen Square massage.

TikTok vehemently denies accusations that it censors speech critical of China today. And members of TikTok’s Trust & Safety team, which makes and enforces content policies for the company, portrayed it as comparatively well insulated from ByteDance influence. Employees described Trust & Safety workers as having less frequent contact with Beijing, and clearer lines of reporting, than other employees that BuzzFeed News spoke to — and described TikTok’s Trust & Safety practices as similar to those adopted by US-based tech giants. Nonetheless,

Read More

Tennis Stars Speak Out On China

Amid growing international attention on her plight, Chinese state media on Thursday suddenly released an email it said Peng had written to Women’s Tennis Association Chair Steve Simon.

The letter, the authenticity of which could not be verified, claimed Peng was resting at home and had never authorized for the original “not true” statement to be posted on Weibo.

But in a statement on Thursday, Simon said the purported Peng letter only made him more fearful for her safety.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he said.

He called for “independent and verifiable proof” of her safety and a full investigation into her claims.

“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source,” Simon said. “Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”

Simon told CNN the WTA was prepared to no longer do business with China, and thus lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, if Peng was not accounted for.

“This is bigger than the business,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Women’s Sports Foundation, a US nonprofit founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, told BuzzFeed News they supported the WTA’s position.

“We are deeply concerned and troubled by the disappearance of Peng Shuai and her allegation of sexual assault,” the spokesperson said. “We support the WTA’s demands for verifiable proof of

Read More

Independent Russian News Site Meduza Seeks Funds During Ukraine Invasion

Russia recently blocked access to Meduza’s website as Putin signed a law threatening journalists with up to 15 years in prison for using words such as “war” and “invasion” to describe Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. The former Soviet power has also blocked Facebook and Twitter, making it even more difficult for Russians to access non-state-sponsored information about the war.

But despite the Kremlin’s attempts to censor Meduza, the news site’s mobile app is still currently accessible in Russia.

“Russians need to have information about what their government is doing and at the moment, they can’t do that if not for independent newsrooms such as Meduza,” said Leon Fryszer, publisher of the crowdfunded German news outlet Krautreporter, which is helping Meduza with its campaign.

For Fryszer, supporting the Latvia-based newsroom feels like the least he can do to ensure the Russian people, many of whom are opposed to Putin’s invasion and have publicly protested the war at great risk to themselves, obtain reliable information.

“I also care in terms of making sure there’s a path forward for Russia and that there’s a chance that one day democracy will see the light of day again,” he said. “That’s quite significant for us as Europeans.”

“I think there needs to be a counterforce to what the Kremlin is doing now, and Meduza has a good chance at being that,” Fryszer added.

HuffPost reporter Ryan Grenoble contributed reporting.

Read More