The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a UK think tank, has published a report examining Russian disinformation on TikTok, a Chinese social networking service that has gained significant popularity among young people. According to the ISD report:
March 2, 2022 Many social media companies, including Meta, Google, and Twitter, have explicit policies on labelling news organisations and websites funded or controlled by governments. These actions are helpful for informing users that the content they’re viewing or engaging with may originate or be linked to government agencies, including content that may aim to deceive or mislead users. However, in the case of TikTok, content related to the invasion of Ukraine from Russian state-controlled outlets that are not labelled as such has been allowed to accrue millions of views. These videos often echo Kremlin propaganda, hateful content, and blatant disinformation on the subject of a developing conflict. TikTok is failing to provide additional context or transparency about the bias of these outlets to its users at a critical time. ”
Read the full report here.
The ISD report reveals that although the EU has geo-blocked most websites and social media channels affiliated with Russian state-backed media, they are still available to users in Ukraine, Russia, and outside the European Union. Despite the EU ban, several TikTok accounts linked to Russian state-backed media are still accessible in Europe, including:
- Sputnik News ES
- RT International
- RT Documentary
- RIA Novosti
- Maxim Toury (RT journalist)
- Margarita Simonyan (RT journalist)
The ISD report found that TikTok is more valuable for these outlets in terms of engagement than platforms like YouTube.
The Global Influence Operations Report recently reported that major US tech companies such as Alphabet and Apple are now blocking content affiliated with Russian state-backed media channels. We have also covered efforts by foreign influence actors to utilize TikTok as a tool to spread disinformation, including:
- How China has hired western social media influencers to spread positive stories about China on TikTok
- How Russia has offered money to western social media influencers to spread disinformation about Covid-19
- How a group affiliated with the global Muslim Brotherhood has pushed a viral social media campaign on TikTok protesting a proposal by the French senate to ban minors from wearing the hijab in public spaces
TikTok has been described as:
…a popular social media app that allows users to create, watch, and share 15-second videos shot on cellphones. With its personalized feeds of quirky short videos set to music and sound effects, the app is notable for its addictive quality and high levels of engagement.