In a blog post, the company announced it would begin publicly reporting on influence campaigns, where networks of accounts engage in coordinated efforts to sway political discourse. TikTok will share details of campaigns it detects and removes, saying it hopes it will “increase transparency about our work to aggressively counter influence attempts.”

The first report of its kind outlines 15 influence operations that spanned 3,000 accounts that had a combined millions of followers. In February, for example, TikTok claims it took down a network of 16 accounts operated from China that were targeting US users. The network used inauthentic accounts to “artificially amplify positive narratives of China,” including support for government policy and “general promotion of Chinese culture.” The network had around 110,000 followers.

In March, TikTok said it removed a network of 52 accounts operated from Ukraine, with a combined 2.6 million followers. The accounts targeted Ukrainians and posted pro-Ukraine clickbait content in an attempt to “manipulate discourse about the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine,” according to the report. The company also details influence campaigns in Indonesia, Venezuela, Germany, and Iran, among others, that attempted to manipulate politics. TikTok says it will also detail campaigns that it has previously removed that attempt to rejoin the platform.

TikTok also announced it would further restrict the reach of state-affiliated media accounts on the platform that try to reach international audiences on topics like global events and affairs. These accounts will be blocked from appearing in the For You feed, the powerful recommendations page that drives reach and engagement on TikTok. They’ll also be prohibited from advertising outside the country they’re based in.

The disclosure of influence campaigns on TikTok comes as the company faces being shut out of the US. The TikTok “ban” bill — which would force Chinese owner ByteDance to divest the video app — has become a flashpoint for US-China relations in recent months. Proponents of the bill say TikTok could be used to brainwash Americans and that the Chinese government has control over TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, though lawmakers have not provided evidence to support this claim.

TikTok is far from the only platform that governments use to try to shape political opinion. Companies like Meta periodically report shutting down influence operations, and Google issues quarterly reports on influence operations it detects. In 2018, Facebook said it had identified and shut down “coordinated authentic behavior” that could be an effort to influence midterm elections; Russian organizations had previously used Facebook to push misinformation around the 2016 elections.

Influence campaigns also aren’t limited to foreign interests: in 2022, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp found and removed a campaign that promoted US interests to audiences abroad while also attacking US adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran.

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