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TikTok’s Rules Deter Researchers From Crunching Data on Users, Misinformation

Bloomberg Law via Yahoo Finance: “As TikTok gets more popular, researchers at leading academic institutions want to study what users are doing there. Publicly, the company says it’s open to this, and is partnering with academics. But researchers said so far, the video app’s rules about data are too burdensome. TikTok is in the process of making its application programming interface, or API, open to researchers to analyze data on the platform. But the terms of service are so strict, academics at leading institutions say they’re hesitant to accept them. The difficulty in researching TikTok comes as competing platforms also are making it more difficult to review their data and are starting to charge for access to their APIs. Social scientists say it’s important to gain access to TikTok to understand the app’s impact on a variety of issues such as elections, public health messaging or the spread of misinformation. By monitoring social media conversations, researchers have been able to flag inaccurate polling information that was turning away voters, for example, and help local governments better communicate with the public during natural disasters like Hurricane Idalia, which hit Florida last month. TikTok’s rules state that academics must provide advance notice about upcoming research, allow the company to review papers before publication and delete some data after it’s used. Researchers said those terms could severely hamper their efforts and that some of the requirements are more demanding than rival platforms, including Google’s YouTube, Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter. TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., comes under a unique level of scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers concerned that US user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government…”

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