TikTok curbs state-affiliated media amid foreign influence fears

Video-sharing app says state-backed accounts will not be recommended or allowed to advertise outside home countries.

TikTok is one of the world's most popular social media platforms [Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]

TikTok, the popular video-sharing app, has announced new curbs on state-affiliated media amid concerns about foreign interference in a major election year.

The Chinese-owned platform said on Thursday that state-affiliated media accounts would no longer be recommended in users’ feeds or allowed to advertise to audiences outside their home countries.

“This is an additional measure to prevent accounts from attempting to reach wider communities on these topics,” TikTok said in a statement.

TikTok said it would also introduce a new dedicated Transparency Report on covert influence operations and disclose more information about operations it has previously removed.

During the first four months of 2024, TikTok identified and disrupted 15 influence operations and 3,001 associated accounts, including campaigns related to Indonesia’s presidential election and political discussions in the UK, it said.

“Today’s updates build on our longstanding efforts to foster authenticity on our platform,” TikTok said.

“From enforcing robust policies against harmful misinformation to investing in media literacy for our community through in-app features and educational campaigns, we’ll continue to aggressively protect our platform’s integrity while empowering our community to create and enjoy authentic content and interactions on TikTok.”

The announcement comes after the United States last month passed legislation to force TikTok to divest from its Chinese owner ByteDance or face a ban.

While other social media platforms such as Meta and X have faced criticism for hosting foreign influence campaigns, TikTok has come under particular scrutiny due to its Chinese ownership.

Lawmakers and national security officials in the US and other Western countries have claimed that the platform could be used by Beijing to spy on users and manipulate public debate.

TikTok, which is challenging the constitutionality of the law forcing its sale in the US courts, has repeatedly denied handing over user data to the Chinese government and insisted it would refuse any request to do so.

Seven out of the world’s 10 most populous nations – including India, the US, Indonesia and Pakistan – have scheduled elections for 2024 in what has been described as the biggest year for democracy in history.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies