TikTok refreshes its community guidelines as CEO prepares to testify before Congress

TikTok on OnePlus 9 with kids tech
(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

What you need to know

  • For the first time, TikTok has made its community principles public.
  • These principles serve as the foundation for all TikTok decisions regarding content moderation on the platform.
  • TikTok's community guidelines have also been updated, and they will go into effect on April 21.

TikTok is increasingly gaining a reputation as the wild west of social networking, and for valid reasons, chief among them the proliferation of occasionally dangerous content on the platform. The short-form video music service is now taking steps to further rein things in with a new update to its community guidelines.

In a blog post, TikTok's Global Head of Product Policy, Julie de Bailliencourt, wrote that the platform is beefing up its rules around AI-generated content. This new update comes as generative AI continues to gain traction among tech giants like Google and Microsoft. The search giant, in particular, recently unveiled new AI tools for Gmail, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Meet, and Chat. The feature can do things like create images, audio, and videos for you in Slides in a matter of seconds.

TikTok has also updated its policies around hate speech and hateful behavior, adding "tribe" to the list of attributes protected by its guidelines. Furthermore, the ByteDance-owned company has expanded its information on how it safeguards "civic and election integrity."

More than 100 organizations worldwide have pitched in to help inform TikTok's refresh guidelines. The ultimate goal is to bolster the platform's rules and "respond to new threats and potential harms," according to Bailliencourt.

The new guidelines will come into force beginning on April 21, and TikTok plans to train its pool of moderators over the coming months.

TikTok has also revamped the organization of its guidelines page, sorting out rules into topic areas based on their themes, complete with an explanation of what's prohibited from the service. This structure makes the policies easier to read and understand.

The company also reiterates the pillars of its moderation approach, including removing violative content, restricting age-sensitive content, hiding videos from its "For You" recommendation feed if they're not suitable for a wider set of audience, and giving users tools to control their experience.

TikTok's community principles

For the first time, TikTok has also released its community principles, which guide all of its decisions toward keeping TikTok safe for all users.

"These principles guide our decisions about how we moderate content, so that we can strive to be fair in our actions, protect human dignity and strike a balance between freedom of expression and preventing harm," Bailliencourt writes.

There are eight guiding principles that are "centered on balancing expression with harm prevention, embracing human dignity, and ensuring our actions are fair," according to TikTok's Community Guidelines page.

The move comes after several frenzied months of government bans on TikTok, with the UK government being the most recent entity to forbid the use of the app on all government electronic devices. Interestingly, the community principles come to light as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the U.S. Congress this month to answer questions from lawmakers over national security concerns hounding the platform.

Several states and federal agencies have implemented a ban on TikTok on government devices in recent months, although a decision on a national ban has yet to be reached by legislators. However, recent reports that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, tracked U.S. journalists’ locations using data from the app have strengthened lawmakers' case for a nationwide ban.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.