The Chinese state media used TikTok accounts to launch a propaganda campaign against Republican candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections, according to a report released by Forbes last week.
Forbes uncovered several news-related TikTok accounts that failed to disclose their affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party’s media platform, China Central TV. The largest accounts, which accrued millions of followers and tens of millions of views, included @Panadorama, @The…Optimist, and @NewsTokss.
The TikTok accounts, which are managed by MediaLinks TV, a U.S.-based outpost for China Central Television, covered divisive topics, including abortion, race, and gun rights.
Videos posted by the accounts did not clearly disclose their affiliation to the Chinese government; however, their profile bios stated, “Material distributed by MediaLinks TV LLC on behalf of CCTV. More info at DOJ, D.C.”
Conor Healy, director of government research at surveillance industry research group IPVM, told the Daily Caller News Foundation, “That’s not disclosure.”
NewsTokss, which specifically covers U.S. news, posted several videos criticizing Republican candidates and other videos supporting Democrat candidates in the 2022 midterm elections.
NewsTokss posted a video in July attacking Texas Republicans Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Greg Abbott. The video’s caption read, “Cruz, Abbott Don’t Care About Us.”
The social media account posted a video in October critical of Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio with the caption, “Rubio Has Done Absolutely Nothing.”
Another video from the same month asked TikTok viewers whether they believed President Joe Biden’s promise to codify abortion access was just a “political manipulation tactic,” Forbes reported.
Despite receiving 8.3 million views between May 8 and July 8, NewsTokss only had 57,600 profile views, Forbes reported. Without viewing the account’s profile, video viewers may have been unaware that a foreign government was responsible for promoting the content.
“Either they don’t care and don’t have the protocols in place to deal with this, or they’re letting it happen,” Healy said about TikTok.
Forbes reported that LinkedIn profiles revealed that approximately 300 employees at TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, were previously employed with Chinese state media publications.
Earlier this year, TikTok announced a program to label state-controlled media accounts.
Jamie Favazza, a TikTok spokesperson, told Forbes, “We plan to introduce our state-controlled media policy and corresponding labels globally next year as part of our continued focus on media literacy. As we previously confirmed, the global rollout will include China state media.”