TikTok launches US elections app to fight misinformation

In an effort to fight misinformation, TikTok announced today that it’s launching an in-app guide for the 2020 U.S. election.

The guide will be available today to all users inside the U.S. and will be accessible either on TikTok’s Discover page or will appear with various search results related to the election. The company said the information will appear in English as well as “dozens” of other languages.

The information provided will tell people about candidates at the federal, state and local level. There will be information about how to vote, powered by the National Association of Secretaries of State, while the digital media literacy initiative MediaWise will supplement the information with educational videos about misinformation, media literacy and the elections process.

The company said in a blog post that the guide will also contain information regarding voting as a person with disabilities, powered by SignVote. The Federal Voting Assistance Program will supply information on voting from overseas, and the Campus Vote Project will help students to cast their vote. Lastly, Restore Your Vote will give information on voting for people with past convictions.

Katy Byron, editor and program manager of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute, said the goal is to help teach the TikTok community “how to sort fact from fiction online” through videos. “Our series of videos will teach first-time voters on TikTok how to spot misleading information online so they can feel confident their vote is based on reliable and accurate information and, at the same time, slow the spread of misinformation,” she said.

The Chinese-owned app just skirted a ban by the Trump administration after a federal judge temporarily blocked an executive order. Trump had earlier accused TikTok of being a threat to national U.S. national security, stating that if it wasn’t bought by a non-Chinese company it would banned from operating in the U.S. The company is currently in negotiations with Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc.

“Our elections guide is built with user privacy in mind, so a user must visit the website for a state or a non-profit for anything that involves sharing their information, including registering to vote,” said Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of U.S. public policy in the blog post, perhaps in an effort to placate the company’s critics. “Interactions with this guide in our app have no bearing on future TikTok experiences, such as recommendations or ads.”

Photo: Marco Verch/Flickr

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