TikTok, the popular short-form video hosting app owned by ByteDance, has announced the launch of its research API and expanded the availability of its data as part of its “continued commitment to transparency and accountability.” The platform has been beta testing its API since last year with the assistance of members of its Content and Safety Advisory Councils. It will now offer the API to researchers affiliated with non-profit academic institutions in the United States.
Interested universities and researchers will need to submit proposals for approval by TikTok’s US Data Security (USDS) division, the new subsidiary established to comply with national security reviews in the United States. Approved proposals will provide researchers with access to public account and content information, including user profiles, comments, likes, and favorites.
TikTok’s API could provide researchers with valuable insights into the social media usage of younger generations and an alternative source of information overall. While other social networks also offer research APIs, Twitter is soon requiring users to pay for access.
The move to offer outsiders greater access to TikTok’s data comes at a critical time for the platform. As it seeks to prove that it is not a threat to national security, several US states have recently prohibited the installation of the app on government-owned phones. Despite years of negotiations with the US government, the platform is still facing calls for a total ban in the country.