TikTok is rolling out new features and doubling down on lessons learned from the 2020 Elections as we head into the midterms this November. The social media giant wants influencers to know that paid political content and ads are not allowed. The app is also launching an Elections Center to connect its young and politically active user base with political resources and information.
The company wants you to know that it cares a lot about U.S. elections, so much so that the company unveiled a resource center for TikTok users as we inch closer to the midterms. It’s called the Elections Center, and features content generated by national associations to connect users with information and resources they might need for voting. For example, deaf users can find information on voting from the Center For Democracy in Deaf America and students can network with the Campus Vote Project. Mike Burns, the National Director of the Campus Vote Project, said in TikTok’s press release:
We saw historic youth and student voter turnout in the 2018 and 2020 elections. We have also seen the astounding growth of TikTok over that same time. Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project is excited to work with TikTok again this year to provide young people and students the information they need to navigate registering and voting, perhaps for the first time. Particularly on a platform they are already using to connect about the things that are important to them and their peers.
Gen Z continues to galvanize itself as more and more become politically active in the face of a democratic system that some feel is failing them and their futures. Gen Z is also arguably the most active generation on TikTok: 67% of 13 to 17 year olds reported having used TikTok at some point, while 16% say they use it almost constantly, according to the Pew Research Center.
That said, TikTok’s political presence is honestly a little troublesome. While the Elections Center is an interesting angle for the company to take in order to educate its audience, there’s worrying trends that run rampant on the platform like the deeply misogynistic musings of creators like Andrew Tate. On the flip side, the app says paid influencer content with a political message is not allowed.
TikTok’s new Elections Center is another opportunity for us to question what role, if any, social media platforms should have in the political process. We know Facebook has found itself time and time again in hot water over its handling of political content. The OG social network also announced this weeks efforts to boost security and integrity on its site ahead of the midterms. Snapchat, meanwhile announced its Run for Office feature last year to help Gen Z get themselves on the ballot. But should the apps that are home to viral dance challenges and rainbow puking filters serve as political motivators?