In a surprising move, TikTok has failed to publish any insights about covert influence operations originating from China, unlike other major social media platforms. This omission is notable considering TikTok’s Chinese ownership under ByteDance, which is influenced the ruling Communist Party. While Facebook owner Meta recently exposed a significant Chinese influence campaign, TikTok has been slow to address similar issues.
Meta’s investigation highlighted the Chinese political spam network, known as ‘Spamouflage,’ and identified TikTok as one of the platforms involved. After being contacted The Guardian, TikTok removed 284 accounts related to Spamouflage. However, this action should have been taken months ago, as other entities like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) have been monitoring Spamouflage accounts on TikTok for over a year.
The Spamouflage influence operation primarily focused on producing videos with positive commentary about China’s Xinjiang province. These videos included testimonials from local Uyghurs, likely coerced the propaganda department, to refute reports of forced labor in Xinjiang. Meta’s investigation also revealed links between the accounts and individuals associated with Chinese law enforcement.
This lack of action TikTok is not surprising, considering ByteDance’s founder’s commitment to promoting the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda agenda. In fact, ByteDance collaborates closely with Chinese public security bureaus to both disseminate and produce propaganda content.
While TikTok presents transparency reports and complies with certain codes of practice, such as the Australian Code of Practice for Disinformation and Misinformation, it cannot be trusted to combat CCP-led information operations independently. The reliance on competitors like Meta to address these issues highlights the need for a more sustainable solution, one that involves government oversight and enforcement.
In response, the Australian government is proposing the Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation Bill 2023. If passed, this bill would empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to gather information on TikTok’s efforts to counter foreign interference. The ACMA would also have the authority to impose substantial fines if TikTok’s actions are deemed untimely or inadequate.
While the draft bill is not without room for improvement, it recognizes the need to hold digital platforms accountable for combatting information operations. It is time for decisive action to regulate TikTok and prevent these operations from continuing unchecked.
– The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/08/short-video-platform-tiktoks-failure-to-act-on-chinese-information-operations-raises-concerns