Senior U.S. government officials said Tuesday that the U.S. government has begun contacting TikTok in an effort to deal with the next generation of false information,media reported. The Chinese-owned platform is becoming increasingly popular among American teenagers and is often used to share political myths.
At a Super Tuesday news conference on election security, senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said they were working with local election officials and social networks to manage false information online.
The U.S. government has built strong relationships with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube since fake news spread during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Last year, TikTok’s popularity soared in the U.S., becoming the latest social network to be followed by CISA.
“Our relationship with social media companies has something to do with how mature they are in the United States,” a senior CISA official said by phone. “
TikTok is reported to have set off a storm on the Internet, the app has accumulated more than 1.5 billion downloads, marketers expect by 2021, the United States users will exceed 50 million. In 2019, the social network’s U.S. users grew by 97.5 percent, especially among teens and children. Political information sharing on this platform has become very common.
Despite Tik Tok’s blocking of political ads last October, political obsessions and conversations about climate change, LGBTQ rights and the U.S. presidential election are flooding the platform.
At the same time, the platform is also offering new opportunities for false information. In January, TikTok announced that it would ban disinformation campaigns on its platforms – though it could do so differently. After the ban, researchers found false information about TikTok in connection with the new coronavirus, which contained conspiracy theories about the public health crisis and its origins.
There’s another problem: Unlike Facebook and Twitter, TikTok is owned by Byte Dance, a non-U.S. company. U.S. lawmakers expressed concern about the owners of TikTok and called for an investigation into the platform to determine whether it posed a national security risk. In February, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it would stop using TikTok, and the U.S. Army and Navy imposed similar bans.
U.S. government agencies, including CISA, have warned U.S. voters to beware of false information on Super Tuesday, and CISA says it is working with federal, state and local officials outside a building in Virginia to monitor election interference.
Representatives from social media companies were also present, but it was not clear whether TikTok’s representatives were among them. As of noon EST Tuesday, CISA officials said they had not seen a spike in the spread of false information on social media.