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Tiktok announces new Ireland data centre amid concerns it sends information to China

The viral video app will likely either be sold to Microsoft or banned in the US

Adam Smith
Thursday 06 August 2020 16:57 BST
(Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

TikTok has said that it will open a £375 million data centre in Ireland.

The announcement comes as the Trump administration has threatened to ban the app or have it be bought by Microsoft, following concerns about the data it collects and its relationship to the Chinese government.

TikTok currently has data centres in the United States and Singapore, however the US government believes that it could be forced by the Chinese government to hand over information about American citizens based on the country’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, something TikTok has denied.

The addition of a data server in Ireland would mean that information on British and European users could be kept on Irish servers, giving users and governments confidence that their data is secure.

Until now, that information has been stored in facilities in the US.

“Building on recent local leadership appointments in markets including the UK, this dedicated regional hub will place an even greater focus on strengthening policies, technologies and moderation strategies and ensuring that they complement both local culture and context,” the announcement says.

“The hub will also collaborate closely with regional regulators, policymakers, government and law enforcement agencies where required in the continued pursuit of promoting the highest possible standard of user safety,” it continues.

TikTok was reportedly approved by the UK government to launch its headquarters in London, but has not confirmed it, only saying that the company is considering the possibility of headquarters outside of the United States.

TikTok’s moderation policies have also been called into question in the past; a report in 2019 based on leaked documents about how TikTok deals with content on its platform, stated that the viral video app censored content that mentioned Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong.

At the time, TikTok said the documents were based on heavy-handed rules the company enforced while it was starting up and are now not being used.

Since then, TiKTok has released comparatively more information than other social media companies about how its algorithm works with regards to content moderation and content recommendation.

The company has apparently been thinking about developing a European data centre for some time.

“It's a significant investment,” TikTok’s director of public policy for Europe Theo Bertram, told the BBC.

”It's a symbol of our long-term commitment to Europe, and I think that's an important message for our users and our creators at this time.“

“There are lots of reasons to come to Dublin, our prime reason being access to a great talent pool,” he told the Irish Times, but also shed no light on the future location of its global headquarters.

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