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TikTok launches an in-app US midterms Elections Center, shares plan to fight misinformation

TikTok launches an in-app US midterms Elections Center, shares plan to fight misinformation Image
  • Posted on 17th Aug, 2022 10:03 AM
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New TikTok feature allows users to access state-by-state election information, including details on how to register to vote, how to vote by mail, how to find polling place

TikTok announced its midterms Elections Center will go live in the app in the U.S. starting today, August 17, 2022, where it will be available to users in more than 40 languages, including English and Spanish.

The new feature will allow users to access state-by-state election information, including details on how to register to vote, how to vote by mail, how to find your polling place and more, provided by TikTok partner NASS (the National Association of Secretaries of State). TikTok also newly partnered with Ballotpedia to allow users to see who’s on their ballot, and is working with various voting assistance programs — including the Center for Democracy in Deaf America (for deaf voters), the Federal Voting Assistance Program (overseas voting), the Campus Vote Project (students) and Restore Your Vote (people with past convictions) — to provide content for specific groups. The AP will continue to provide the latest election results in the Elections Center.

The center can be accessed through a number of places inside the TikTok app, including by clicking on content labels found on video, via a banner in the app’s Friends tab, as well as through hashtag and search pages.

Image Credits: TikTok

The company also detailed its broader plan to combat election misinformation on its platform, building on lessons it learned from the 2020 election cycle. For starters, it launched this in-app Election Center six weeks earlier than in 2020. It’s ramping up its efforts to educate the creator community about its rules related to election content, as well. This will include the launch of an educational series on the Creator Portal and TikTok, and briefings with both creators and agencies to further clarify its rules.

Much of how TikTok will address election misinformation has not changed, however.

On the policy side, TikTok says it will monitor for content that violates its guidelines. This includes misinformation about how to vote, harassment of election workers, harmful deep fakes of candidates and incitement to violence. Depending on the violation, TikTok may remove the content or the user’s account, or ban the device. In addition, TikTok may choose to redirect search terms or hashtags to its community guidelines, as it did during the prior election cycle for the hashtags associated with terms like “stop the steal” or “sharpiegate,” among others.

Image Credits: TikTok

The company reiterated its decision to ban political advertising on the platform, which extends not only to ads paid for through its ads platform but also to branded content posted by creators themselves. That means a political action committee could not work around TikTok policies to instead pay a creator to make a TikTok video advocating for their political position, the company claims.

Of course, just important as the policies themselves are TikTok’s ability to enforce them.

The company says it will use a combination of automated technology and Trust and Safety team people to help drive moderation decisions. The former, TikTok admits, can only go so far. Technology can be trained to identify keywords associated with conspiracy theories, that is, but only a human would be able to understand if a video is promoting that conspiracy theory or working to debunk it. (The latter is permitted by TikTok guidelines.)

Image Credits: TikTok

TikTok declined to share how many staffers are dedicated to the job of moderating election misinformation, but noted the larger Trust and Safety team has grown over the past several years. This election, however, will be of increased importance as it follows shortly after TikTok shifted its U.S. user data to Oracle’s cloud and has now tasked the company with auditing its moderation policies and algorithmic recommendation systems.

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