Power

How TikTok responds to controversy: With more educational videos

As it tries to burnish its reputation, TikTok is testing a new education section.

The TikTok app

ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has previously reacted to negative publicity or political pressure by rolling out new, corporate social responsibility-friendly features.

Photo: Kon Karampelas/Unsplash

TikTok is trialling a new section of its app in North America that highlights educational videos, Protocol can reveal — an approach it has previously used in Asia in the wake of negative reception.

The education-focused vertical, which acts similarly to the app's main For You Page, appeared as an option on some users' phones in Canada in the middle of last week.

There appear to be at least two versions of what is provisionally called the "Learn" tab on TikTok: one is a third tab appearing at the top of the user's screen alongside the "Following" and "For You" tabs. The other, which Protocol has seen video evidence of, is a small lightbulb icon that appears on users' home screens and links to a separate page of endless scrolling videos.

The majority of the videos are tagged with the #learnontiktok or #tutorial hashtags, though they include videos on a number of topics including makeup tutorials, cooking recipes and tips for applying to jobs.

A TikTok spokesperson told Protocol: "We are constantly experimenting with new ways to bring value to the app experience."

A screenshot of the new education feature, showing the lightbulb icon in the top-left corner.Screenshot: Chris Stokel-Walker

It follows a similar push in India, where sources with knowledge of the plans of TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, tell Protocol an educational app is in development.

ByteDance has previously reacted to negative publicity or political pressure by rolling out new, corporate social responsibility-friendly features. In India, TikTok announced its #EduTok program soon after it was criticized by politicians for hosting inappropriate content. The educational vertical also echoes the introduction of a similar section on Douyin, the longer-running Chinese version of the app. A "positive energy" section, which promoted patriotic Chinese content to users, was introduced shortly after another ByteDance app, Neihan Duanzi — a sort of Reddit meets Imgur — was forced to close in 2018 by the country's central ruling authorities for hosting inappropriate material.

The same "positive energy" phrasing was also used in Indonesia, where TikTok launched an educational content campaign after it was banned temporarily in the country for broadcasting "negative content" to people under the age of 18.

Protocol has previously reported on how TikTok is using a playbook developed in Asia to crack the U.S. market.

Testing of an educational vertical comes at an interesting time in North America, coinciding with U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley sending a letter to the Federal Trade Commission claiming that "video-sharing apps like TikTok empower Chinese leadership to pry into the private affairs of Americans by hoovering up enormous amounts of information on individuals' daily lives."

But the app has been on a significant educational content drive of late in the West, announcing a $50 million Creative Learning Fund in the U.S. at the end of May, through which TikTok will partner with 800 creators and institutions to bring learning material to the app. And ByteDance is heavily invested in education more widely: it currently has contracts with over 5,000 English teachers in North America who teach on its educational apps.

"As it grows more successful internationally, we observe ByteDance experiencing something of an identity crisis," says D. Bondy Valdovinos, a researcher at Queensland University of Technology, who has studied TikTok and its Chinese counterpart, Douyin.

"To assuage concerns over its Chinese origins, the company has recently deployed a variety of responses such as moving moderation teams outside of China and appointing a new American CEO. TikTokforGood and EduTok have been excellent responses to controversy that encourages users and creators to create content that repairs ByteDance's image."

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins