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TikTok Fails ‘Disinformation Test’, Approves Fake News Ads About EU Elections


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A recent report has revealed that the widely popular social network TikTok approved advertisements containing political disinformation ahead of European polls, raising concerns about its ability to detect election falsehoods and flouting its own guidelines. The report, issued by the international campaign group Global Witness, highlighted that TikTok approved all 16 ads created by the group, which targeted Irish audiences with false information about the EU elections. This revelation has sparked questions about the platform’s capacity to identify and prevent the spread of election-related disinformation, especially given the platform’s advanced tools like the TikTok Ads Manager.

The ads, submitted by Global Witness, contained content posing a risk to electoral processes, including false warnings to voters about poll violence and contagious diseases, as well as misleading information about the voting age and the method of casting votes. While TikTok acknowledged that the ads violated its policies, it attributed their approval to “human error” by a moderator and stated that new processes have been implemented to prevent similar occurrences in the future. This incident has underscored the challenges TikTok faces in adhering to TikTok EU regulation, which demands stringent oversight to prevent the spread of disinformation.

The failure of TikTok to detect and filter out these ads has raised significant concerns, particularly as tech campaigners and regulatory bodies continue to emphasize the need for platforms to address the proliferation of disinformation during elections. The report has prompted Global Witness to submit a formal complaint to Irish regulators, citing potential violations of European rules aimed at mitigating electoral threats. The spread of TikTok fake information, especially during crucial electoral periods, poses a significant threat to democratic processes.

This incident comes in the wake of the European Union’s publication of guidelines under the Digital Services Act (DSA), which demands that major platforms, including TikTok, take action to reduce the risk of poll interference. Despite TikTok’s previous statements detailing comprehensive measures to protect election integrity, the platform’s approval of ads containing political disinformation has underscored the challenges in effectively addressing and preventing the spread of false information. The rise of TikTok fake news further complicates the task of maintaining a trustworthy information ecosystem on the platform.

The revelation about TikTok’s approval of misleading political ads has sparked widespread concern and calls for greater vigilance in safeguarding the integrity of electoral processes. As the platform faces scrutiny for its role in disseminating election-related disinformation, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for robust measures to combat the spread of false information, particularly during significant electoral events. The integration of robust verification processes within tools like the TikTok Ads Manager and strict adherence to TikTok EU regulation are essential steps in ensuring that such lapses do not occur in the future.

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