TikTok prepares for mid-term disinformation chaos

In just a few years, TikTok has become one of the fastest growing social networks in the world – and with the 2022 midterm election cycle heating up, the app is now gearing up to tackle the maddening problem. election disinformation.

In a blog post on Wednesday, TikTok’s US chief security officer Eric Han explained how the company plans to combat the threat of harmful misinformation. First, TikTok will begin rolling out its election center this week to provide authoritative voting information in the coming weeks and the results of the Associated press once they are reported. TikTok says it will be linked to the election hub through tags placed on midterm-related content, including videos posted by governments, candidates and political parties.

While TikTok banned paid political advertising in 2019, Han said the platform is expanding the policy to ban paid content from influencers. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, the campaign and political groups, including the Biden-Harris campaign, worked with influencers on all platforms to reach voters who were spending more time online due to the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.

“TikTok does not allow paid political ads, and that includes content influencers getting paid to create,” Han said in Wednesday’s blog post.

But in a report last summer, the Mozilla Foundation found that political influencers on TikTok continued to post partisan ads in brand endorsements with political groups, despite the ban. TikTok noted the disparity in a post-election report last year and now plans to release new educational content for creators and management companies explaining its rules prohibiting paid political collaborations. Yet influencers aligned with political groups, like Turning Point USA, may not receive payment for branded content, but instead receive invitations to events and networking opportunities. When asked if the ban applied to these unpaid partnerships, Han confirmed that it did not.

TikTok only started to gain traction in the US at the height of the 2018 mid-cycle with its billion-dollar purchase of Musical.ly in August. The app continued to grow in popularity throughout the 2020 presidential election, but only recently became a social media staple, leading Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the App Store charts of Apple at time of publication. About 67% of American teens use TikTok, according to a recent Pew Research Center report, and for longer periods of time than competing social media apps. The average US user spends about 80 minutes a day on TikTok, doubling the time users spend on Facebook and Instagram, analytics firm Sensor Tower found in a July report.

During a Tuesday briefing with reporters, TikTok officials stressed the company’s commitment to protecting the integrity of US elections. “At TikTok, we are very proud that people come to our platform to share their own stories, not only that, but also to learn about other people’s stories, and that would include discussions about current events happening. in their world or in their world,” Han said during the briefing. “While people are discussing these kinds of topics, like elections, it is our duty to meet any human challenges and protect our community from harm. .”

With less than 90 days to go until the November election, major tech platforms have already started preparing. Last week, Twitter said it bring back his tools remove false and misleading election information. Google reached an agreement with the Federal Election Commission last week to launch a new program allowing candidates and political groups to bypass Gmail’s spam filters, ensuring their fundraising messages reach voters’ inboxes. . In a blog post on Tuesday, Facebook’s parent company Meta said its midterm approach would be “consistent with the platform’s policies and safeguards” instituted during the 2020 presidential election.

TikTok has continued to grow in popularity despite numerous regulatory and political threats to completely ban the app in the United States. Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to take TikTok offline, citing national security concerns. As part of that effort, Trump signed several executive orders, including one to ban any dealings between U.S. entities and TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance. Last summer, President Joe Biden issued his own order revoking the Trump administration’s ban and asking the Commerce Department to investigate TikTok’s ties to Beijing.

To assuage lawmakers’ concerns, TikTok has pursued a relationship with Oracle to house US user data. But the threats escalated after reports surfaced that Bytedance engineers in China had access to US data until January 2022. Addressing the reports, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew wrote to Congress on last month, providing new details on how the app limits Chinese access to US data.

“We know we are among the most vetted platforms from a security perspective, and we aim to remove any doubts about the security of US user data,” Chew wrote.


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