TikTok is expanding its Research API to nonprofit academic institutions


Over the past few years, TikTok has been under a lot of scrutiny regarding its data privacy practices and its parent company’s connection to China, which has also raised concerns about potential security risks. Now, in an effort to increase transparency and accountability, TikTok is expanding access to its research API, allowing more researchers and nonprofit academic institutions to access its data.

TikTok’s initial announcement of the research API came last summer when the company noted that researchers currently lack an easy way to assess its content and conduct tests on the platform. Therefore, by building an API that includes public data on content and accounts, TikTok hopes to demonstrate its commitment towards accountability and moderation of its content. However, to prevent the data from falling into the wrong hands, proposals from interested universities and researchers will need to be approved by TikTok’s US Data Security (USDS) division.

“We have incorporated that feedback and improved the functionality of our API. Today, we are opening an application for API access to US-based researchers and will expand to additional regions and include NGO researchers as we build capacity,” reads the company’s blog post.

Benefits of the new API

With the new API, researchers would be able to access public account and content data, as well as performance data, such as the number of comments, likes, and shares that videos receive. TikTok says they have designed the API to help researchers and institutions better understand how they moderate and recommend content on the platform and to provide them with an easier way to assess content and conduct tests, which was not possible before.

Although TikTok’s move is a step towards greater openness and accountability that could benefit researchers and users, it comes at a time when at least 20 states have banned TikTok on government-owned devices. Additionally, many universities have also banned the app from their campus networks and devices.


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