TikTok to clamp down on paid political posts by influencers ahead of US midterms

While TikTok has banned paid political ads since 2019, campaign strategists have skirted the ban by paying influencers to promote political issues.

 TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)
TikTok app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC)

TikTok will work to prevent content creators from posting paid political messages on the short-form video app, as part of its preparation for the US midterm election in November, the company said on Wednesday.

Critics and lawmakers accuse TikTok and rival social media companies including Meta and Twitter of doing too little to stop political misinformation and divisive content from spreading on their apps. Read full story

While TikTok has banned paid political ads since 2019, campaign strategists have skirted the ban by paying influencers to promote political issues.

The company seeks to close the loophole by hosting briefings with creators and talent agencies to remind them that posting paid political content is against TikTok's policies, said Eric Han, TikTok's head of US safety, during a briefing with reporters.

He added that internal teams, including those that work on trust and safety, will monitor for signs that creators are being paid to post political content, and the company will also rely on media reports and outside partners to find violating posts.

General view of the US head office of TikTok in Culver City, California, US, September 15, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)General view of the US head office of TikTok in Culver City, California, US, September 15, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)

"We saw this as an issue in 2020," Han said. "Once we find out about it ... we will remove it from our platform."

TikTok broadcasts its plan following similar updates from Meta and Twitter.

Other social media platforms

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said Tuesday it will restrict political advertisers from running new ads a week before the election, an action it also took in 2020.

Last week, Twitter said it planned to revive previous strategies for the midterm election, including placing labels in front of some misleading tweets and inserting reliable information into timelines to debunk false claims before they spread further online. Civil and voting rights experts said the plan was not adequate to prepare for the election.