TikTok, popular with young voters, has approved all 16 ads created by Global Witness.

Paris, France:

Wildly popular social network TikTok approved ads containing political disinformation ahead of European elections, a report showed Tuesday, violating its guidelines and its ability to detect electoral fraud. But raised questions.

International campaign group Global Witness created 16 ads targeting Irish audiences with misinformation about this week’s EU election and posted them on three platforms – TikTok, Google-owned YouTube and Elon Musk’s X (ex Tried to get approved by Twitter).

TikTok, which is particularly popular among young voters, approved all 16 for publication, YouTube nabbed 14 while X filtered out all ads and fake group accounts, Global Witness said in its report. Suspended.

“TikTok has failed this test miserably,” Henry Peck, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, told AFP.

The fake ads submitted by the group last month all contained content that could threaten the electoral process — including warnings to voters to stay home due to the risk of election violence and an increase in infectious diseases.

These included fake notices raising the legal voting age to 21 and calls for people to vote by email, which is not allowed in European elections.

In TikTok’s response to the study, which Global Witness shared with AFP, the platform acknowledged that the ads violated its policies.

Citing an internal investigation, the Chinese ByteDance-owned app said its systems correctly identified the violation, but the ads were approved due to “human error” by a moderator.

“We immediately put in place new processes to prevent this from happening in the future,” a TikTok spokesperson told AFP.

‘no friction’

The failure to detect the ads comes as tech campaigners urge the platforms to address growing concerns over the flood of disinformation affecting elections around the world.

Peck insisted it was “absolutely important” that social media sites acted against threats to democracy in a year that culminated in November’s US presidential vote leading to a major election.

“I was surprised because TikTok has caught content in the past that goes against its rules and, in this instance, caught nothing,” Peck said.

“It looks like it has the systems in place, it has the capacity, and yet there was no friction.”

GlobalWitness said it had submitted a formal complaint to Irish regulators, saying the platform was in breach of European rules to mitigate electoral risks.

Earlier this year, the EU published guidelines under its massive Digital Services Act (DSA) demanding that major platforms, including TikTok, take action to reduce the risk of pool interference.

Last month, TikTok released a statement detailing “comprehensive” measures, saying it had “deeply invested” in protecting election integrity.

‘sleep on the switch’

Global Witness said it deleted the fake ads after receiving notification from TikTok that they had been accepted for publication to prevent any traction.

It also featured an ad that did not contain false information but violated TikTok’s ban on political ads.

The group paid £10 ($13) for the ad and found it received 12,000 impressions before the credits rolled.

AFP, among more than a dozen other fact-checking organizations, is paid by TikTok in several countries to verify videos that may contain false information.

TikTok has emerged as a major electoral platform as politicians across Europe and the US — including presidential candidate Donald Trump — seek to capitalize on the platform’s virality.

The trend comes even as TikTok is under pressure in the United States, where President Joe Biden recently signed a law that would ban the platform if its owner has a year fails to find a buyer for the app within

“And yet in Europe, they seem to be asleep at the switch, like they’re not attuned to this very blatant electoral disinformation,” Peck said.

(Other than the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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