TikTok rolls out new political misinformation policies

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TikTok on Wednesday announced a series of new steps aimed at countering political misinformation on the short-form video sharing platform.

The popular app is updating its policies to prohibit synthetic or manipulated content, like deepfakes.

The company is also partnering with two fact checking organizations – PolitiFact and Lead Stories – to monitor misinformation about the 2020 election.

In the coming weeks, TikTok users will be able to report posts or accounts to be reviewed for potential election misinformation.

While synthetic content “was broadly covered by our guidelines already,” Vanessa Pappas, the general manager of TikTok’s U.S. operation, wrote in a blog post announcing the changes, “this update makes the policy clearer for our users.”

TikTok is also working with an agency in the Department of Homeland Security to counter foreign attempts to influence elections.

“Misinformation, disinformation, and threats to civic engagement are challenges no platform can ignore,” Pappas wrote. “By working together as an industry with experts and civil society organizations, we can better protect the civic processes that are so essential to our users.”

TikTok has banned all political advertising since October of last year.

The new rules around misinformation come as as President Trump threatens to block TikTok from operating in the U.S. over its ties to China.

The short-form video app’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in and operates out of Beijing, though TikTok’s American data has been moved to servers in the U.S.

Although Trump’s authority to ban an app is legally questionable, the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has reportedly asked ByteDance to sell off TikTok.

Microsoft confirmed Sunday that it has been exploring a deal to purchase the app after speaking with Trump.

Microsoft said that it would complete discussions with TikTok by Sept. 15. The companies have both provided a notice of intent to the CFIUS to explore a proposal that would give Microsoft ownership of the app in United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

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