Groups trying to use TikTok and other social media to launch ‘influence campaigns’

TikTok-State-Affiliated-Media (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
TikTok-State-Affiliated-Media (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Some groups are trying to use TikTok and other social media to launch influence campaigns.

TikTok will launch new rules and try to be more transparent about such campaigns, as it attempts to stop their influence in a year that will see elections across much of the world.

The company already disrupted 15 influence operations and removed 3,000 accounts in the first four months of the year, it said. That included groups of accounts attempting to “artificial amplify narratives” around the UK’s politics, it said.

Some of those groups campaigns had large numbers of followers. A network of 16 accounts that was run from China and attempted to reach US users and promote Chinese culture and government policy had managed to gather around 110,000 followers, TikTok said.

It revealed those campaigns as part of a new commitment to transparency which it said would see it publish more updates on what it is doing to fight those campaigns, and give more information about them when they are found.

TikTok already brands state-affiliated accounts with a label that it says “bring important context” to those accounts. But now it will bring in further rules: state-affiliated media accounts that attempt to reach communities outside of their home country will be removed from the For You feed and will not be allowed to advertise in other countries.

The new policies come soon after a report from the nonprofit Brookings Institute that pointed to Russian state-affiliated accounts, saying they were posting more messages in English and Spanish and looking to boost their following.

It also comes in a year in which almost half the world’s population will go to the polls. That includes votes in the UK and US.

Many social networks have introduced new measures to try and stop the manipulation of their platforms during those elections, including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram.

But TikTok faces extra scrutiny because it is owned by Beijing-based company Bytedance. Those Chinese links have led the company to face a ban in the US, under new legislation that requires it to be sold or shut down in the country.