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TikTok Cracks Down on Political Content

The platform is banning political fundraising videos and will require U.S. politically affiliated accounts to be verified.

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TikTok says stick to the dancing, keep the politics out of it.
TikTok says stick to the dancing, keep the politics out of it.
Image: DANIEL CONSTANTE (Shutterstock)

Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, TikTok announced some changes to its content policy. The social media giant is now barring videos that contain political fundraising and mandating verification for U.S.-based government and political accounts.

In its press release about the changes, the company emphasized that “TikTok is an entertainment platform,” apparently trying to distance itself from social media’s very real effects on public perception and past elections. The app may seem innocent enough, with its lip-sync videos and impractical cooking “hacks.” But if TikTok has the power to convince teens to get themselves arrested, it’s also certainly powerful enough to spread disinformation and influence the political landscape.

Which the company is well aware of. Hence, why it released its Elections Center last month. And, why it opted to prohibit political advertisements back in 2019. The new ban on political fundraising is intended to bolster this previous prohibition, and help with enforcement of it’s political and disinformation policies (which has previously been something of a problem, especially across cultural and language lines).

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Any account belonging to a political party or politician will automatically have their advertising features disabled, moving forward. Governments will still be allowed to access advertising under very specific circumstances. For instance, to spread awareness about something like covid booster shots. To advertise on the platform, governmental accounts will have to work with a TikTok rep for approval, the company declared.

All other monetization mechanisms will also be inaccessible to accounts that TikTok has identified as political or government-run. Which means politicians will, in theory, be cut off from the tipping, gifting, e-commerce, and Creator Fund features.

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And the platform will also begin additional content policing from politically-affiliated accounts by banning videos that include direct fundraising, send viewers to a political donation page, or involve other acts of solicitation.

Finally, TikTok is now testing a new requirement that all U.S. politicians, political parties, or government accounts must be verified in order to exist on the platform. Verified accounts on TikTok appear with a small blue checkmark next to their username, and getting that blue badge has a few requirements. (Cue the concern that this is the Chinese government censoring U.S. officials.)

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The above changes will be rolling out “over the coming weeks.” And the company hopes they’ll staunch the tides of political pandering and coordinated manipulation that are the hallmarks of election season. “We’re aiming to strike a balance between enabling people to discuss the issues that are relevant to their lives while also protecting the creative, entertaining platform that our community wants,” TikTok wrote.