mozilla tiktok washingtonpost
TikTok has one of the strictest bans on political advertising in the tech industry. But partisan influencers are flying under the radar on the social network, exposing a critical blindspot in the company’s rules, researchers say.
Lawmakers have been calling for greater regulation of political ads on social media for years, after Russian actors exploited targeted ads on social media to influence the 2016 election. Since then, companies across Silicon Valley have tightened their ad policies, but researchers are concerned that paid content from influencers could create a new host of challenges.
Sponsored content, often called “sponcon,” has long been controversial because it can be difficult to differentiate from a regular post in the social media ether. Some experts have called on the companies to treat sponcon the way they would treat traditional political ads.
The Mozilla researchers say their findings show that TikTok is not keeping up with industry best practices on political advertising or disclosing sponsored content.
“Platforms have come before them who have had to sort this out, and have actually undergone a lot of scrutiny for not sorting it out sooner,” said Brandi Geurkink, Mozilla’s senior manager of advocacy in an interview. “We’re looking into TikTok and not understanding why they haven’t implemented the most basic things around ad transparency. … TikTok is really falling behind in that regard.”