TikTok on Tuesday announced a ‘Safety Advisory Council’ for the Asia Pacific region to advise the app on content moderation policies, and identify existing and emerging issues in the APAC region that could affect the platforms and its users. The council will also develop strategies to tackle these challenges. It includes one Indian — Amitabh Kumar, the founder of Social Media Matters. We have reached out to TikTok and Kumar for more information.

The council will convene quarterly to discuss issues such as online safety, child safety, digital literacy, mental health and human rights with TikTok’s regional leaders. It will also report on observations and submit formal recommendations related to these issues. However, in its announcement, TikTok didn’t give details of how the members of the council were selected.

Members of the council: As of now, there are seven members in the council from countries such as India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Japan, and Singapore among others, but TikTok said that it will include more members from others markets in the APAC region, in the future. The current members of the council are:

  1. Amitabh Kumar, founder of Social Media Matters (India)
  2. Jehan Ara, president of the Pakistan Software Houses Association and founder of The Nest I/O (Pakistan)
  3. Nguyen Phuong Linh, executive director, Management and Sustainable Development Institute (Vietnam)
  4. Yuhyun Park, founder, DQ Institute (Singapore)
  5. Akira Sakamoto, professor of psychology, Ochanomizu University (Japan)
  6. Seungwoo Son, professor of industrial security, Chung-Ang University (South Korea)
  7. Anita Wahid, activist, Gusdurian Network Indonesia and president of the Indonesia Anti-Hoax Society (Indonesia)

“By announcing its Asia Pacific Safety Advisory Council comprising of globally-renowned experts, TikTok has demonstrated its commitment towards transparency and to addressing challenges in the new, evolving realities and changing socio-political dynamics,” Kumar said in the announcement post.

TikTok remains banned in India over security fears

The formation of this safety council comes as scrutiny against TikTok for being an alleged national security threat gains momentum in several parts of the world. In India, for instance, the app was banned in June for allegedly being a national security and privacy threat, and remains banned to this day. We have asked Kumar whether the council in general, and he in particular, will have a dialogue with the Indian government about allowing the popular short video app to resume its operations.

TikTok was handed a “final warning” in Pakistan over “obscene” and “immoral” content on the platform, as the country’s government had directed it to put in place a “comprehensive mechanism to control obscenity, vulgarity and immorality” on its platform. Indonesia had banned TikTok for a week in July 2018.

In the US, TikTok finds itself in the middle of a complicated deal, as parent ByteDance seems reluctant to cede ownership of a newly formed entity called TikTok Global. US President Donald Trump had effectively banned the app, and later directed ByteDance to divest its American assets as the US government sees TikTok and ByteDance as a national security threat, for its alleged close relationship with the Chinese government. In March, TikTok had formed a content advisory panel in the US to advise on content moderation policies.