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 started testing an early version of the research API back in November. Interested universities and researchers will have to apply for access and be approved by TikTok’s U.S. Data Security (USDS) division.
At the time of TikTok’s initial announcement of the research API last summer, the company said researchers currently don’t have an easy way to assess content or conduct tests on its platform, which is why it saw the need for a research API.
“TikTok is working to enhance transparency with the research community,” the company notes. “As part of our efforts to stay accountable to how we moderate and recommend content, we’ve built an API that includes public data on content and accounts on our platform. This API will be made available to researchers globally, starting with academic researchers in the United States and expanding to additional regions and to include NGO researchers as we build capacity.”
With the research API, researchers can access public account data, such as user profiles and comments, along with performance data, such as number of comments, likes and favorites that the user receives. Researchers can also access public content data, such as comments, captions and subtitles, along with performance data, such as number of comments, shares, likes and favorites that the video receives. In addition, researchers can access public data for keywords search results.
TikTok’s initial announcement of the research API came as the company was trying to prove that it’s not a national security threat due to its parent company’s connection to China. Since then, the company has continued to face scrutiny, as the U.S. House of Representatives ordered its staff and lawmakers to delete TikTok from any government-issued mobile devices due to security issues with the popular video-sharing app last December.
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 as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to appear before the the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23. The hearing will mark the first appearance of a TikTok CEO before a congressional panel.