TikTok Places Limits On Reach Of State-Affiliated Media Outside Their Home Countries

TikTok announced Thursday that it would be further limiting the reach of state-affiliated media accounts outside of their home countries. 

The platform labels the accounts of state-affiliated media, or media organizations that are subject to the influence or control of their governments. It began adding these disclaimers in 2022, starting with Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian state-controlled media and later expanding to over 40 countries.

The restrictions on state-affiliated media are intended to combat “covert influence operations,” TikTok said in a news release.

The announcement comes amid a historic election year, with about 4 billion people across 76 countries — including the U.S — voting for their next leaders. The platform has amassed roughly 170 million American users.

In the first four months of 2024, TikTok said it has already disrupted “15 influence operations and removed 3,001 associated accounts” that tried to influence political discourse, including election information.

The company said it disrupted attempts to influence the Indonesian presidential election earlier this year as well as the targeting of U.K. audiences by accounts “artificially amplifying narratives about the UK’s domestic political discourse.”

“We’re focused on ensuring our community of 170 million Americans can discover original and reliable content and have authentic interactions on TikTok,” Suzy Loftus, head of trust and safety for TikTok U.S. data security, said in a statement. “During this critical election year, we are further strengthening our efforts to aggressively counter influence attempts and ensure TikTok remains free from outside manipulation.”

State-affiliated media accounts will not be put on the “For You” page, which is TikTok’s algorithm that recommends videos to users. The accounts will also be prohibited from advertising to markets outside of their home countries.

TikTok has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers who called it a national security threat. The app is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, which legislators fear could give the Chinese government access to American users’ data. The app is facing a ban in the U.S. if ByteDance does not sell the platform to an American company. President Joe Biden signed a law in April that requires ByteDance to sell TikTok within nine months or face a ban. 

The move was unpopular among many TikTok users, creators and small businesses who rely on the app to reach their communities and audiences. Many feared that a ban would take away their livelihoods. 

Former President Donald Trump, who is running against Biden in November, reversed his position on a TikTok ban in March after trying to ban the app in 2020. 

TikTok sued the U.S. government over the bill this month, stating it violated the First Amendment. A group of eight TikTok creators followed with its own suit against the government, also citing First Amendment violations.

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