TikTok's Elections Center returns to fight misinformation ahead of the midterms

Detecting political branded content is still a challenge for the company.

·2 min read
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TikTok is the latest social platform to preview its strategy for fighting election misinformation ahead of the November midterms. The company is once again promoting its in-app Elections Center, which connects users with voting resources and information about their local races. TikTok says a link to the Elections Center will appear on all content related to the midterms, as well as all videos from candidates, political parties and official government accounts.

The company will also continue to work with third-party fact checkers to debunk false claims and warn users when a video contains unverified information. Videos with claims that are debunked by fact checkers will also direct viewers to the Elections Center.

While much of this is similar to steps the company took ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Eric Han, the company’s head of US safety, says the company has built on learnings from 2020. For example, TikTok is stepping up its outreach to creators in an effort to ensure they understand the company’s ban on political ads also applies to branded content.

TikTok's 2022 Elections Center is live in the app ahead of the November midterms.
TikTok's 2022 Elections Center is live in the app ahead of the November midterms. (TikTok)

The issue has been a challenging one for TikTok. A report last year from Mozilla found that many creators with financial ties to political candidates and organizations were able to easily evade detection on the app. In a briefing with reporters, Han acknowledged that undisclosed branded content is a “challenge” for the company.

He said the company is creating educational videos for creators and agencies to better inform them of TikTok’s rules around such partnerships. He also said the company is working on improving its ability to detect such content, both by monitoring third-party reports, and with internal teams that are “investigating for potential signals where we should be investigating.”

TikTok isn’t the only social platform getting a head start on preparing for the fall midterms. Twitter announced last week that it was reactivating its civic integrity policy and rolling out redesigned fact-checking labels. Meta also recently previewed its strategy to counter misinformation during the midterms, saying it will repeat many of the steps it took ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

But TikTok has come under particular scrutiny for its rapid growth over the last two years and its parent company ByteDance’s ties to China. The company announced this week that Oracle would be auditing its algorithms and moderation practices.

“As part of Oracle's work, they will be regularly vetting and validating both our recommendation and our moderation models,” Han told reporters. “There'll be regular audits of our content moderation processes, both from automated systems … as well as the content that is moderated and reviewed by humans.”