TikTok gives European researchers access to API in transparency pledge

Access to the social media platform's public data, including content and user profiles, has been expanded beyond the US to include researchers in Europe.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor
TikTok logo on phone
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TikTok is giving researchers in Europe access to its public data, expanding the social media platform's Research API beyond the US. 

The move is part of efforts to "bring transparency" to its content, TikTok said in a statement Thursday. "Our goal is to make it easier to independently research our platform," it said, noting that it had received more than 60 applications from US non-profit researchers since the launch of the API earlier this year. 

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With Research API, researchers will be able to access public data across three main areas encompassing user accounts, content, and keyword search results. These include data on user profiles, comments, captions, and performance data such as shares, according to TikTok. 

Access to the API is free, but applicants must meet stipulated criteria such as academic experience or expertise in the specified research area, employment in a non-profit academic institution, and a clearly defined research proposal. 

A new feature, Lab Access, also will be added to the API, enabling up to 10 researchers to collaborate on a shared research project. All researchers must have their own TikTok for Developers account and be based in either Europe or the US to access it.

TikTok said it plans to further widen access to the Research API to other global markets. 

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It also is expanding access to its Commercial Content Library to the public, though only data from Europe currently is available. Advertising data from other global markets will be added to the mix in the future, TikTok said. The database contains information about paid ads and ad metadata, such as parameters used for targeting and dates during which the ad ran. API access to the library also has been made available to researchers with a TikTok for Developers account.

The short-form video platform, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is banned on all US federal government-issued devices, while the US state of Montana was the first to outlaw TikTok on all personal devices. The European Parliament also issued a mandate for the app to be removed from government devices and suggested members delete it from their personal devices. 

TikTok has more than 150 million monthly active users across Europe, including Germany, France, and Spain, and employs more than 5,000 people in 10 markets in the region, which include Belgium, Poland, and the UK.

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