TikTok limits state-affiliated media to counter influence campaigns

TikTok has moved to limit the reach of state-affiliated media as it seeks to address concerns over its role in spreading disinformation during a crucial election year.

The Chinese-owned company said in a statement that “state-affiliated media accounts that attempt to reach communities outside their home country on current global events and affairs” will not show up on users’ personalized feeds.

Additionally, TikTok said state-affiliated accounts will be barred from advertising outside their home country. The platform started labeling state-affiliated media in 2022, and the practice now covers more than 40 countries.

Accounts tagged as state-affiliated include the likes of Russia’s RT network and People’s Daily, the official paper of the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok said it was putting additional restrictions in place as a response to a “historic” election year. Half of the global population is going to the polls in 2024, including key votes in the US and Europe.

It said it thwarted 15 influence campaigns in the first four months of this year and removed thousands of accounts that sought to push certain narratives, mostly regarding elections in various countries, including Germany, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

A campaign in the UK amplifying pro-Iranian and pro-Hamas narratives was among those disrupted, as was a network believed to be run from China that sought to promote that country’s worldview in the US.

While misinformation is also a problem for Meta, YouTube, X, and other social media platforms, TikTok is under particular scrutiny as it faces a ban in the US if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not sell the app.

Lawmakers and security officials have said TikTok posed a national security risk over its handling of personal data and links to China’s political establishment. The platform has pushed back by suing the federal government over the looming ban.