TikTok is expanding access to its research API to nonprofit academic institutions in the United States, the company announced on Tuesday. The expansion comes as TikTok began testing an early version of its research API in November. Interested universities and researchers will need to apply for access and be approved by TikTok’s US Data Security (USDS) division.
At the time of TikTok’s initial announcement of the research API last summer, the company said that researchers currently don’t have an easy way to review content or run tests on their platform, which is why it saw the need for a research API.
“TikTok is working to increase transparency with the research community,” the company notes. “As part of our effort to be accountable for how we moderate and recommend content, we built an API that contains public data about content and accounts on our platform. This API will be made available to researchers worldwide, starting with academic researchers in the United States and expanding to other regions and to NGO researchers as we build capacity.
The research API allows researchers to access public account information, such as user profiles, comments, along with performance data, such as the number of comments, likes, and favorites received by the user. Researchers also have access to public content data, such as comments, captions, subtitles, along with performance data, such as the number of comments, shares, likes, and favorites the video receives. In addition, researchers have access to public data for keyword search results.
TikTok’s initial announcement of the investigative API came as the company tried to prove it is not a threat to national security due to its parent company’s connection to China. Since then, the company has come under constant scrutiny, as last December the U.S. House of Representatives ordered its staff and lawmakers to remove TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices over security vulnerabilities with the popular video-sharing app.
At least 20 states have banned TikTok on government-owned devices. In addition, many universities are also banning TikTok from their campus networks and devices, including The University of Texas and Texas A&M University.
The research API update comes when TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23. The hearing marks the first appearance of a TikTok CEO before a congressional panel.