TikTok can tell you a lot about internet culture, but the massively popular Chinese-owned social-media app doesn’t seem to know much about Hong Kong protests.
Searches for hashtags like #HongKong do surface some videos of demonstrations, but not anywhere near the volume you’d find on, say, Twitter. You might then wonder—as The Washington Post did in a September piece—whether that reflects interference by TikTok’s Beijing-based parent firm, ByteDance.
On Wednesday, The Guardian reported on leaked documentation indicating that the company did suppress certain videos, specifically about Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, and the banned religious group Falun Gong. ByteDance told the paper that the documents in question were no longer in use, but their existence was enough to invite further speculation.
And TikTok isn’t doing one thing that would help its users stop wondering. Unlike such older social platforms as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, which post regular transparency reports documenting how often governments around the world have demanded data about its users or the removal of their posts, TikTok does not. (The company did not respond to my request for comment.)
Google pioneered the concept of the transparency report in 2010, but it took off after Edward Snowden revealed massive surveillance by the NSA, in 2013. Within the next two years, transparency reporting had spread to almost every large tech firm with a large consumer business—not just Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft, but even more politics-averse corporations such as Amazon and the largest telecom carriers.