Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok has threatened to censor politicians it deems to be promoting "misinformation" in the run-up to the European elections. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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TikTok threatens to censor politicians who promote ‘misinformation’


Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok has threatened to censor politicians it deems to be promoting “misinformation” in the run-up to elections in Europe later this year.

The company also announced it would launch a series of in-app “Election Centres” for each of Europe’s 27 Member States in the run-up to the votes, where it says people will be able to find “trusted” information.

In a press release published on February 14, TikTok said it recognised social media accounts belonging to “politicians, political parties, governments and news organisations” played a “unique role” in political discourse online.

As a result, the company promised it would take a “nuanced” approach to moderating such accounts.

The company’s definition of “nuanced” also includes taking a harsher stand over politicians deemed to be spreading misinformation, with the firm promising to delete such content and temporarily ban any politician who posted it from the platform for up to a month.

“If such an account were to post content promoting misinformation that could undermine a civic process or contribute to real-world harm during an election period, we may restrict that account from posting content for up to 30 days, in addition to removing the content for breaking our rules,” the Big Tech firm said.

TikTok also emphasised it was working with several “fact-checking organisations” that will help it “detect” disinformation in 18 different languages across the bloc.

The announcement came as multiple politicians and political entities return to TikTok for the forthcoming European elections despite some fears surrounding data “safety”.

Much of these concerns surround TikTok’s Chinese owner, Bytedance, with numerous publications reporting last year that the company might be handing over sensitive information about users to entities linked to the country’s ruling Communist party.

That prompted multiple state institutions across the West to ban their workers from using the app in certain situations.

This included a number of European Union institutions. The European Parliament ordering its staff in March last year to delete the app from Parliament-owned devices, as well as from their private devices if they ever used applications related to the Parliament on them.

Despite such prohibition, the Parliament’s press service is now reportedly planning to go back to using the Chinese social media platform in the run-up to the June European Parliament elections.

It argued such a move was necessary as it would better enable the Parliament to “fight disinformation”.