Despite the company’s regulations, election disinformation is spreading on TikTok ahead of the US midterm elections; as more Americans use the site as a news source, watchdogs are worried about its impact on young voters. The wildly popular app has become a haven for posts promoting unsubstantiated allegations of voting fraud, myths about mail-in votes, and deceptive movies about various state regulations.

More alarmingly, TikTok has authorised sponsored political commercials that flagrantly include false material, a practice the company said it had outlawed in 2019. “Hackers may readily change election results! Voting in the midterm elections is pointless “according to one such ad.

It was one of several projects developed by scholars from New York University and the nonprofit Global Witness to examine the legality of TikTok’s ban on sponsored political posts. Ninety per cent of the misinformation-filled ads that the team filed on social media were approved.

According to Jon Lloyd, a senior adviser at Global Witness, TikTok is “bottom of the class” compared to other social media sites combating election disinformation. “We were somewhat astonished by that outcome,” he added. These lies also occur at a time when eight million new young US citizens will be able to cast ballots in the elections on November 8.

TikTok’s policy

According to its integrity principles, TikTok censors anything that can mislead on “civic procedures, public health or safety,” including incorrect information on voting. Additionally, the site forbids campaign funding, and it just debuted an election centre within the app. A business representative told AFP in an email statement that “we take our obligation to preserve the integrity of our platform and elections with the greatest care.” To combat electoral disinformation, “We continue to invest in our policy, safety, and security teams.”

Yet there are still unfounded allegations of vote fraud and conspiracy theories being spread by politicians for the midterm elections. TikTok has already been used to promote untruths about elections. “That a company can actually make Facebook look good when it comes to misinformation and disinformation is an amazing achievement,” said NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill.

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