TikTok is struggling with misinformation. In fact, the platform removed nearly 350,000 videos with misinformation about the U.S. 2020 presidential election, and more than 50,000 videos about false COVID-19 information.
With the U.S., France, Brazil, and Kenya holding major elections in 2022, a new study conducted by Mozilla reveals that TikTok still fails to uphold its promise to curb the spread of disinformation in advance of these elections.
In research released this week, fake political accounts and other election disinformation still exist on TikTok, despite its commitment to enforce community guidelines.
Researchers at Mozilla uncovered several accounts with significant followings that impersonate prominent German political institutions and figures, a clear violation of the platform’s guidelines.
For example, before it was removed, @derbundestag impersonated an official Bundestag account, shared partisan content, and gained 14 thousand followers and nearly 131 thousand likes.
"Mozilla’s research uncovered several fake TikTok accounts that had been running for months and attracted thousands of followers,’ said Becca Ricks, researcher at Mozilla.
The research follows a June 2020 study on how political influencers evade TikTok’s policies in the U.S.
In another example, @frank.walter.steinmeier impersonated Bundespräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany. The account frequently posted videos promoting the German military. It has about 3,000 followers and 72 thousand likes.
The report notes that TikTok has since deleted the account, but it is unclear how long it was active, who ran it, and what kind of impact it may have had on users in Germany.
Another “broken promise,” according to the research, is TikTok’s automated approach to labeling content. It doesn’t work.
For example, election labels appear on all content that uses the hashtag #SPD. Yet much of #SPD content doesn’t refer to the German political party Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland — it refers to issues like Sensory Processing Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality or Sexual Pleasure Device.
TikTok also promised to fact-check Bundestag Election content through a partnership with Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (dpa), the largest press agency in Germany. But Mozilla researchers learned this contract was signed, and that this fact checking began, only recently, according to Mozilla.