47 Days Before Elections! Chinese Communist Gov’t-Tied TikTok Tinkers with Political Accounts

September 22nd, 2022 2:40 PM

Chinese Communist Party-tied TikTok is experimenting with its policies on political accounts just 47 days before the 2022 U.S. midterm elections.

Following recent revelations of Chinese employees having access to U.S. TikTok user data, the August creation of TikTok’s Election Center already raised concerns of foreign influence on the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. Now TikTok is targeting politically-affiliated accounts, less than two months before the elections on November 8.

A Sept. 21 TikTok press release noted that, while many politicians and political party accounts are already verified on the platform, the verification is optional. TikTok is now running a test that will make account verification mandatory for accounts belonging to governments, politicians and political parties through the November midterm elections. It’s unclear whether the test will apply to all or merely a portion of U.S.-based political accounts. These accounts will also now be automatically unable to access advertising and monetization features, according to the press release.

TikTok’s blog did not delve into factors that would potentially prevent verification of an account. The platform, however, has a history of anti-conservative bias and censorship. 

Will this new program be an excuse to ban or prevent conservative political accounts on TikTok?

Government accounts will be allowed to access ads in “limited circumstances,” the press release noted. TikTok cited COVID-19 booster vaccine ads as an exception to the restrictions on government ads.

Politicians, political accounts, and governments will “not be able to give or receive money through TikTok's monetization features, or spend money promoting their content.” The press release added that TikTok also will “disallow solicitation for campaign fundraising.”

TikTok is raising increasing concerns in American politics. U.S. House Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor issued a “cyber advisory” on TikTok in August, labeling the app “high-risk” because of China’s access to personal data on the platform.

TikTok is owned by Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-tied ByteDance. The CCP owns a stake and board seat in ByteDance. The CCP recently demanded more user information from Chinese companies – including “non-public” data. A recent MRC Free Speech America study also discovered 11 pro-free speech organizations “permanently banned” by TikTok.

Conservatives are under attack. Contact TikTok via email at communitymanager@tiktok.com and demand Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment and provide transparency. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.