Mozilla research says TikTok lacks policing of paid political influencer content material

Recent research has shown that despite Tiktok’s move to ban political advertising on its platform in 2019, Tiktok influencers in the US are receiving compensation for distributing political messages. According to research by the organization that created Firefox, Mozilla, Tiktok does not actively monitor and enforce its rule that influencers disclose paid partnerships, nor does the platform label sponsored posts as advertising.

The results suggest that the undiscovered political advertisements identified on TikTok in the US could easily be played in other countries.

Its inconsistent disclosure practices coupled with the lack of ad transparency tools or archives make it difficult to monitor ads posted by political influencers on TikTok. Mozilla found that TikTok influencers across the US political landscape had undisclosed paid relationships with various US political organizations. This means that political advertising on the platform is unregulated and not monitored.

Mozilla listed three recommendations for the social media platform in its report. It called on Tiktok to develop effective self-disclosure mechanisms for authors; invest in the implementation of advertising transparency on the platform; and updates its policies and enforcement processes regarding political advertising.

However, TikTok currently requires YouTubers to use #ad to reveal paid partnerships or sponsored content. Meanwhile, Tiktok has created a new branded content policy that mentions a “branded content switcher” to help influencers reveal paid partnerships.

In a section addressed to lawmakers, Mozilla’s report also listed requests to law enforcement agencies to increase disclosure requirements for online advertising, enact regulations that take into account novel forms of political advertising, develop a clear definition of political advertising, and apply laws and guidelines development require platforms to increase transparency towards users.

TikTok’s transparency report, released on February 24, 2021, found that in the second half of 2020, 3,501,477 ads were rejected for violating advertising policies and guidelines.

According to a separate report from influencer marketing platform Linqia, only 16% of marketers planned to use the platform for influencer marketing in 2020, but now 68% say they want to use it for their influencer marketing efforts is a 300 percent increase. The State of Influencer Marketing 2021 also found that 71% of business marketers who have set their influencer marketing budgets will increase their spend in 2021.

That said, from a local perspective, Tiktok recently appointed Singapore-based ByteDance’s CFO Shouzi Chew as CEO in May this year. Chew will be based in Singapore while remaining CFO of ByteDance. According to his LinkedIn, Chew was previously CFO and Partner, Director, President of International at Xiaomi Technology for over five years. According to the company, the move at the time was a “strategic reorganization to optimize TikTok’s global teams” and support the “unprecedented growth of the company”.

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