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TikTok Fails to Control Kremlin Propaganda on Its Platform, Report Finds

March 3rd, 2022 14:44

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
  • Vesti
  • NTV
  • 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.