Buckle Up: CCP-Tied TikTok Announces ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Counteroffensive

April 25th, 2024 12:48 PM

Communist Chinese government-tied TikTok is doubling down on election-interfering censorship even as it faces a potential U.S. ban.

President Joe Biden signed into law a Republican-led bill that could force TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to sell the app or have it banned in America. TikTok came under fire for a March update to its “For You feed Eligibility Standards,” where the app announced its determination to censor alleged “misinformation,” “conspiracy theories” and “false or misleading” election content. This could constitute foreign election interference ahead of the 2024 election, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) owns a board seat and maintains a financial stake in TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.

TikTok’s update to its “Standards” details the alleged “Misinformation” it bans specifically for the “For You” feed, including “General conspiracy theories that are unfounded and claim that certain events or situations are carried out by covert or powerful groups, such as ‘the government’ or a ‘secret society.’” Can TikTok be trusted to determine what constitutes “Misinformation” unbiasedly? The platform's record suggests it cannot.

TikTok has censored content to please the CCP in the past, including about Tibetan independence and Tiananmen Square, leaks have suggested. As for accusations against the American government, at least some of those would fall under the category of free speech. 

MRC Free Speech America VP Dan Schneider said, “It is a fact, not a conspiracy theory, that the Biden administration coordinated and coerced Big Tech to censor conservatives who criticized Biden and his radical policies. But with Biden using TikTok as the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, it is now very possible that TikTok will do his bidding and hide this kind of information from voters.”

Moreover, the Chinese-owned app’s standards also ramble vaguely about additional content that could get censored: “Unverified information related to an emergency or unfolding event where the details are still emerging” and “Potential high-harm misinformation while it is undergoing a fact-checking review.” The lack of clarity in these standards could lead to biased censorship of free speech.

Finally, TikTok declared its ban on alleged “[u]nverified claims about the outcome of an election that is still unfolding and may be false or misleading.”

The app does have indirect ties to the Chinese government which makes this new policy particularly dangerous. Multiple former TikTok employees recently told Forbes that the app has much closer ties and extensive data sharing between TikTok and ByeDance. This raises serious concerns about TikTok’s potential election interference.

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 while providing transparency. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.