February 1, 2023

After piloting for about a year, TikTok is expanding its state-affiliated media policy globally. The video-centric social media app will add labels to content from government-controlled accounts on its platform. This helps users identify content that may be biased or promoting the viewpoint of a government, so they can make informed decisions. Companies like YouTube, Meta (Facebook), and Twitter have been showing such labels on their respective platforms for a few years now.

TikTok will show “state” labels in more markets

TikTok began labeling state-affiliated accounts in March of last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The pilot program was launched in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. All TikTok content published from accounts controlled by the government or government-affiliated agencies in these countries featured an actionable label that let users know about the same. Users can then make informed decisions regarding the accuracy and transparency of the content and take appropriate action.

About a year after launching this pilot, TikTok is now expanding this policy to more countries. The company doesn’t name the countries but says these labels will appear on state-affiliated accounts from over 40 markets across multiple regions. The rollout will begin in a phased approach and will gradually expand to more markets over time. A TikTok spokesperson told Engadget that the app will label the Chinese state media accounts among others.

According to TikTok, it consulted with “more than 60 media experts, political scientists, academics, and representatives from international organizations and civil society” around the world to improve its state-affiliated media policy over the past year. The company says these labels will appear on “accounts run by entities whose editorial output or decision-making process is subject to control or influence by a government”.

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However, it notes that there is always a possibility of occasional errors. As such, any account labeled as state-affiliated media on TikTok can appeal if they feel it’s a mistake. Those accounts require to submit additional information that ensures their editorial independence. TikTok will verify the claim with the help of independent authoritative experts and act accordingly. The firm will remove the label if it finds that the account was incorrectly labeled earlier.

TikTok may be trying to address the security concerns in the US

Over the past few weeks, several US states have banned TikTok on official devices. Even the federal government and some colleges have announced similar bans. They all had concerns that the company may allow the Chinese government access to the user data of Americans. By labeling the Chinese state media accounts, TikTok may be trying to address those concerns. The company can now argue that it treats the Chinese government the same as other state-controlled media. It remains to be seen whether this helps TikTok avoid further bans in the US.

TikTok state affiliated labels