TikTok on Thursday joined the growing number of tech companies promising to protect “election integrity” this year as the U.S. and dozens of other countries go to the polls.
“Over the last 4 years, we’ve worked to protect our platform through over 150 elections around the world,” said a post by Suzy Loftus, the company’s head of USDS Trust and Safety. “Today, we’re sharing an overview of our continued investment to ensure that TikTok continues to be a creative, safe, and civil place for our community in a historic elections year.”
The app, owned by China-based ByteDance, has about 2 billion users worldwide and roughly 150 million active users in the U.S.
TikTok requires government, candidate and political party accounts to be verified, and said it labels content its factcheckers find “unsubstantiated.” But such content could be the app’s thorniest problem.
While it says that it has “thousands of trust and safety professionals” working to enforce community guidelines, election observers express mounting concern that apps like TikTok will spread misinformation about the presidential race, congressional and Senate elections and gubernatorial contests across the country faster than the company’s “specialized misinformation moderators” can shut them down.
In particular, worries center on potential deepfakes generated with artificial intelligence tools. ChatGPT maker OpenAI earlier this week pledged to decline requests that ask for image generation of real people, including candidates, in an effort to limit the number of deepfakes.
TikTok said it does not allow “manipulated content that could be misleading,” including AI-generated content of public figures, and that it requires users to label realistic content created with AI. “As the technology evolves in 2024, we’ll continue to improve our policies and detection while partnering with experts on media literacy content that helps our community navigate AI responsibly,” Loftus wrote.
TikTok also said it will work to deter and remove “covert influence operations,” or deceptive actors who target online audiences. And it does not accept paid political advertising or allow candidates to raise money through accounts on the app.
Loftus said the company has partnered with electoral commissions and fact checking organizations to build what it calls “Election Centers” that aim to connect users to “trustworthy information about voting.”
It will launch its U.S. Elections Center in partnership with nonprofit Democracy Works in the coming days, the statement said, with the aim of providing reliable information for all 50 states and Washington D.C.
“We will direct people to the Elections Center through prompts on relevant election content and searches,” Loftus wrote. “We’ll continue to add information throughout the year, including election results.”
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