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TikTok bans deepfakes to fight misinformation and election meddling

The rules bar "synthetic or manipulated media that misleads users."
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
August 5, 2020
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TikTok closeup logo displayed on a smartphone screen and the local newspaper of Chania, Crete Island, Greece on August 3, 2020. President of the USA Donald Trump is threatening and planning to ban the popular video sharing app TikTok from the US because of the security risk. (Photo Illustration by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

TikTok has become the latest platform to ban deepfakes. Under its new policy, the app says it “prohibits synthetic or manipulated content that misleads users by distorting the truth of events in a way that could cause harm.”

“Our intent is to protect users from things like shallow or deep fakes, so while this kind of content was broadly covered by our guidelines already, this update makes the policy clearer for our users.” TikTok’s General Manager Vanessa Pappas wrote in a statement.

The deepfake ban is part of a broader set of policy changes meant to fight misinformation and election meddling. The new rules also make the company’s policy barring coordinated inauthentic activities “unambiguous.”

TikTok also says it’s expanding its work with outside fact-checkers ahead of the 2020 election, and that it will allow users to report election-related misinformation in its app. And the company is working with the Department of Homeland Security in order to combat foreign interference in the election. 

Though Pappas writes that “TikTok isn't the go-to app to follow news or politics,” the app has dealt with extremism, fringe conspiracy theories and other unsavory content.

Together, the updates are similar to steps other social media companies have taken to fight election meddling and disinformation campaigns. The changes may also help address some concerns around the app, which lawmakers have labeled a national security threat. Microsoft is currently in talks to buy TikTok from Chinese parent company ByteDance, after Donald Trump threatened to ban the app. 

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