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This is… interesting.

Today, TikTok has announced an expansion of its state-affiliated media labels, with the profile indicators now set to be applied in 40 markets to any media outlets that TikTok assesses as being influenced by their local government.

TikTok state-affiliated media

Which, given the context, seems like a pretty big example of deflection.

As explained by TikTok:

Last year, we began to pilot adding labels on content from state-controlled media, starting in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Our state-affiliated media policy is to label accounts run by entities whose editorial output or decision-making process is subject to control or influence by a government. Our goal in labeling state-affiliated media is to ensure people have accurate, transparent, and actionable context when they engage with content from media accounts that may present the viewpoint of a government.”

It all makes sense, and yes, adding a level of transparency can only be beneficial for TikTok users. But given TikTok’s links to the Chinese Government, and the ongoing speculation about the platform being used to spy on foreign citizens, the timing of this update seems significant.

Right now, the US Government is in the midst of an assessment as to whether it should ban TikTok outright, with security experts calling on the White House to take action, and restrict TikTok’s access.

The platform’s case hasn’t been helped by the fact that staff from TikTok’s parent company ByteDance were recently found to be spying on several American journalists, by using their TikTok profiles to identify where they had been, and who they’d been in contact with – i.e. the very thing that TikTok has repeatedly pledged that it does not, and will not do.

Government-affiliated organizations across the US continue to ban TikTok on their devices, and as calls for the full removal of the app increase, TikTok itself has admitted that its long-running negotiations with US officials have taken a hit.

Because TikTok itself may or may not be considered ‘state-affiliated media’. All Chinese apps, technically, are required to share information with the Chinese Government on request, and it’s interesting, within this broader context, to see TikTok running deflection, by flagging that it’s now going to better label state-associated media in the app.

For increased transparency. Because TikTok’s good. ‘You can trust us’.

It’s a good update, no doubt, but it is interesting within this broader discussion and debate.

TikTok says that it’s worked with a range of media experts and academics to establish clear criteria for labeling state-affiliated media in the app – but it will also add an appeals process for entities that believe they’ve been incorrectly tagged with the marker. 

So, more transparency in media on TikTok. Maybe not from TikTok itself, but for media orgs in the app.