Tiktok 'fails' political disinformation test ahead of EU elections

Popular social network TikTok approved adverts containing political disinformation ahead of European polls, a report showed Tuesday, flouting its own guidelines and raising questions about its ability to detect election falsehoods.

International campaign group Global Witness created 16 ads targeting Irish audiences with false information about this week's EU elections and tried to get them approved by three platforms – TikTok, Google-owned YouTube and Elon Musk's X (formerly Twitter).

TikTok, which is particularly popular with young voters, approved all 16 for publication, YouTube caught 14 while X filtered all the ads and suspended the group's fake accounts, Global Witness said in its report.

"TikTok has failed miserably in this test," Henry Peck, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, told French news agency AFP.

The fake ads, submitted by the group last month, all contained content that could pose a risk to electoral processes – including warnings to voters to stay home over a danger of poll violence and a spike in contagious diseases.

They also included a fake notice raising the legal voting age to 21 and appeals for people to vote by email, which is not permitted in European elections.

Human error

In TikTok's response to the study, which Global Witness shared with AFP, the platform acknowledged the ads violated its policies.

Citing an internal investigation, the Chinese ByteDance-owned app said its systems correctly identified the breach, but the ads were approved due to "human error" by a moderator.

The group paid £10 (€11) for that ad and found that it received 12,000 impressions before the credit ran out.

Read more on RFI English

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