The 2020 US presidential election opened the gateway to an abundance of comments on multiple social media platforms. Controversy, stress, and uncertainty dominated the conversation, leading millions of users to making their own interpretations. The fear of misleading information being spread however triggered social media companies like TikTok to take their own measures. According to its latest Transparency Report, which covers the last six months of 2020, 347,225 videos were taken down for election misinformation.
The data provided by the company stated, “We worked with fact checkers at PolitiFact, Lead Stories, and SciVerify to assess the accuracy of content and limit distribution of unsubstantiated content.”
We just released our H2 2020 Transparency Report, our most comprehensive report to date, offering a deep dive into how TikTok worked to keep our community safe.
While our work is never done, we're so proud of the progress reflected in this report:https://t.co/MgleK4tjSU
— TikTok Business (@TikTokBusiness) February 24, 2021
Lost Eligibility And Facebook’s Tie-In
This method caused an additional 441,028 videos losing eligibility for recommendation on people’s For You feed. Similarly, 1,750,000 accounts were also taken down from the platform that were used “for automation” during the time of the US election. TikTok proved to be a few steps ahead, wanting to avoid criticism following the backlash Facebook faced for allowing political ads to run. An official announcement was made on Facebook For Business stating:
“As of November 4 at 12:00 AM PT, we temporarily stopped running all ads about social issues, elections or politics in the United States. We’ll notify advertisers when this policy is lifted.”
Without such restrictions, political campaigns would have the ability to pay to get their message across Facebook users.
Pressure By Trump Administration
During the time of TikTok’s decision to collaborate with fact-checking organizations, the company was accused by the Trump administration for its ties to the Chinese government. The Trump White House aimed for a deal with a US corporation due to security concerns, claiming to ban the social media platform if these issues weren’t resolved. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle were amongst the ones bidding for ownership over TikTok from ByteDance, a Chinese organization.
The deal between Oracle and TikTok has been set to a permanent hold according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. If President Biden decides to dismiss this bold policy against the app, then it will continue to function without any support from Oracle.
The company’s Vice president, Michael Beckerman stated on Wednesday, “TikTok is a diverse, global community fueled by creative expression. We work to maintain an environment where everyone feels safe to create, find community, and be entertained.” He continued saying, “We are committed to being transparent about how we keep our platform safe, because it helps build trust and understanding with our community.”
Entertainment is one of the main purposes of TikTok’s platform. Therefore, the videos which were approved to remain on people’s feed during election period were mostly creations involving funny, short skits, memes, and reactions. These videos earned massive popularity reaching thousands of likes, showing support to the creators.
A Social Media “Problem”
With an increased amount of misinformation spread online, it is important to present reports which prove the extent to which this issue occurs. TikTok offered a new glimpse in which users of all platforms can get an insight to numbers, revealing how much of the content they could have viewed may have swayed their opinion. The further such forms of manipulation exist online, the more the Internet becomes a safe place where users can be informed correctly.