Chinese-owned TikTok just announced it would provide access “to authoritative information” to “counter election misinformation” with the roll-out of its Election Center. Oh Goody!! Just like Twitter, they are approaching upcoming elections “with the utmost seriousness.” The move to control disseminate information on elections almost identically mirrors Twitter’s recent announcement of its “civic integrity” program. They are even partnering with the National Association of the Secretaries of State (NASS).

 

TikTok is a National Security Threat

A September 25, 2020 filing by the Trump administration DOJ lays out “factual background on the PRC, ByteDance, and TikTok.”

Trump administration DOJ Memorandum

The app is a voracious collector of personal data, with much of it allegedly traveling to China. Remember when DNI Ratcliffe, on his way out in December 2020, warned of “China’s threat to America’s democracy and freedom worldwide?” Well, in August of 2020,  President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) 13942 referenced the threat. He also referenced the “information and communications technology and services supply chain” found in  Executive Order 13873 to address the “threat posed by TikTok.” As explained in the EO, the concerns were grave enough to “ban the use of TikTok on Federal Government phones.”

EO Trump White House 13942/https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/11/2020-17699/addressing-the-threat-posed-by-tiktok-and-taking-additional-steps-to-address-the-national-emergency

Let’s take a look at what the DOJ filing says. First of all, it is well known that anything posted on the internet in China is the property of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Not only is that true, but “it is well-known that large Chinese technology firms are not purely private but, in fact, are intertwined with and subject to the control and influence of the CCP and the PRC. Moreover, Chinese law imposes broad obligations on citizens and companies to cooperate with the PRC by providing data and technological support to security and intelligence agencies and the military.

DOJ Memo TikTok/https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7218230-DOJ-s-MEMORANDUM-in-OPPOSITION-to-TIKTOK.html

The memo explains that according to the United States Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2019 presented by then DNI Daniel R. Coats, “China presents a persistent cyber-espionage threat and a growing attack threat to our core military and critical infrastructure systems.” Remember, elections are part of America’s critical infrastructure, as laid out on the CISA website. So, it absolutely makes sense to allow TikTok to control guide the conversation on social media about elections. Let’s be reasonable. It is interesting that when you search the term TikTok on the CISA website, this page here on the dangers of misinformation on social media—is archived content.

Another associated document sent on September 17, 2020, from John Costello, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Security, reinforces the notion that apps like TikTok are probably not the best vehicle for authoritative election information. Foreign interference in our elections? Pshaw! It’s a new day! Trump is gone. Nevertheless, here we are.

September 17 Letter

TikTok Has Reach

Any influence operation worth its salt has to have reach. TikTok leads the pack in the arena of social media reach and frequency of use. The video app is the fastest-growing source of news for the young ones. 40% of Gen Z prefers a search on TikTok over Google. Given the fact that TikTok is owned by ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, Americans should have no worries at all about the security of their personal data.

TikTok/ByteDance the same/https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/25/tiktok-insiders-say-chinese-parent-bytedance-in-control.html

At the time of the letter, the number of monthly active users in the U.S. was “more than 30 million,” and “globally the number of monthly active users [was] 800 million.” As of March 2022, there were 138 million U.S. users of TikTok and 80 million monthly users, no small slice of the American social media pie. As a comparison, Lasso, Facebook’s equivalent, had “250,000 downloads in the U.S.” since November 2021. In the same period, TikTok had 41.3 million. “TikTok was the second most downloaded app in the U.S. in November with 4 million downloads (trailing only Disney+).” Talk about eyes on social media and data capture; TikTok is the way to do it. The average user spends 95 minutes a day on the app, a remarkable feat given our notoriously short attention spans.

TikTok stats 2022/https://wallaroomedia.com
TikTok Stats Aug. 2022/wallaroomedia

TikTok has already settled to the tune of $5.7 million with the FTC in February of 2019 because of its violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In the same year, a California college studentaccused the app of transferring private user data to servers in China, despite the company’s assurances that it does not store personal data there.

There are other class action lawsuits as well. In November of 2021, the company settled for $92 million in a class action lawsuit for “harvesting data from users without their consent.” Other lawsuits allege the wrongful deaths of two young girls because life-threatening behavior has allegedly been encouraged on the app. Numerous pages of cases involving crimes associated with the platform pop up in a simple search on the DOJ website. Clearly, there are concerns over its use. The National Security Division of the DOJ dedicated some of its FY2022 budget to addressing those concerns. But hey, TikTok says it is an authoritative voice on election integrity.

What is TikTok Doing for Elections?

Those familiar with Twitter’s civic integrity engagement need to look no further to understand what TikTok plans to do beginning on August 17, 2022. They follow an almost identical set of policies and guidelines to “safeguard safety and diversity.” It is just TikTok’s version of the same monkeyshine.

Like Twitter, they will prevent campaign ads and election influencers from being on their platform. They plan to enforce their policies, and they’ve got experts to help them do that. Their Content Advisory Council is populated by lawyers, politicians, academia, and government officials ready to submit their completely unbiased viewpoints on what election misinformation looks like.

TikTok Enforcement

TikTok even has “accredited fact-checkers” to ensure “the accuracy of content in more than 30 languages.” And when your content rubs those TikTok content moderators the wrong way, they will apply “an abundance of caution” to your post and feed. Your irksome point of view becomes ineligible for recommendation while it is “being fact-checked or [your] content can’t be substantiated.” TikTok will then “inform viewers of unsubstantiated content and prompt them to reconsider before sharing potential misleading information.” Consider before you share!!! Irrational Labs and the National Association of Media Literacy Education have partnered with TikTok to deliver state-of-the-art election propaganda truth.

Consider before you share/TikTok

Like Twitter, TikTok has been testing ways to make information “safer” for its users, “filtering options for our entire community so they can enjoy more of what they love.” They will even recommend videos to help you discern what videos you should be watching on a variety of topics, including elections. Be informed, and watch TikTok. “Check out some of our most beloved TikTok creators in the “Be Informed” video series,” says TikTok:

      • Question the Graphics” challenges the TikTok community to analyze the visual images they come across.
      • Question Your Bias” reminds users to consider how their experiences influence what they believe.
      • Fact vs. Opinion” helps users determine whether statements are expressing truths or beliefs.
      • Not Interested” shows users that they can control what they see.

TikTok says these videos “explain the difference between fact and opinion, how to analyze graphics, understand sources, and reflect on whether the content should be shared.” America, wake up. TikTok is here to deliver.

TikTok will also be “collaborating with Center for Democracy in Deaf America to provide information on voting as a deaf person; as an overseas citizen or service member through the Federal Voting Assistance Program; as a student, with help from Campus Vote Project; and as a person with past convictions, with help from Restore Your Vote. As election results are reported, the latest results will be available in our app from the AP.” They’ve got you covered.

The TikTok army will gladly label election content for its users, too, because, after all, it was tough to decide for ourselves prior to the evolution of social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter. So helpful. God forbid we figure this stuff out on our own.

TikTok labels Content

So there you have it. Another social media platform getting ahead of our elections to help distinguish fact from fiction in the mid-terms and beyond. As the video below explains, with TikTok, “you can actually trick people into hearing your message, even if they might be opposed.” And by the way, “Can’t tell if it’s true? Then skip the share!”

@tiktoktips

Learn helpful guidelines on when and how to spread information. Don’t unknowingly help spread false info! #TikTokTips

♬ original sound – TikTok Tips

With partnerships with the likes of our own U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and an app that is heavily leveraged by the PRC and the CCP, what could possibly go wrong??! Don’t fret. TikTok says you are in control. The upcoming elections are sure to be the most secure and transparent in history.