A new Mozilla Tiktok Tiktokzakrzewski report has found more than a dozen TikTok influencers who had undisclosed paid relationships to post political messages. According to the report, TikTok banned political ads in 2019.
In their analysis of content from May 1-5, 2019 and April 18 – 22, 2019, the Mozilla Foundation’s research team found over a dozen instances where the app’s most popular users were posting “political messages in exchange for money or free product.”
Mozilla researchers also discovered more than 20 TikTok influencers who have a paid relationship with the app’s parent company, ByteDance. In some cases, these influencers were posting political content to their personal accounts that they later deleted.
The report was written by Nick Heindl, Head of Research at the Mozilla Foundation and Brandt Peters, Research Analyst with Mozilla.
“It is clear from our research that there is a significant problem with the content posted on TikTok by influencers and ads lookalikes,” said Heindl. “Additionally, there is a disconnect between the content of such posts and what influencers claim to have been paid for. We hope these findings will help TikTok improve their processes and reporting of influencers to ensure that this content is not being paid for with the poor intent implied.”
In addition to the research, Mozilla provided several recommendations regarding the content posted by influencers on TikTok.
“We found a range of offensive posts posted by influencers on TikTok’s private messaging function. We recommend that these posts be removed and advertisers and influencers provide clear disclaimers describing the nature of their relationship. Additionally, we recommend that influencers be able to provide clear disclaimers on their public content, including on social media profiles.”
You can read the full report on Mozilla’s website .
The app’s parent company, ByteDance, also released a statement on the issue:
“As a creator platform and major influencer marketing platform in China, TikTok has always prioritized user experience and healthy content ecosystem. We already have a dedicated team to screen every one of our influencers for credibility and trustworthiness. We found that some influencers tried to post inappropriate content on TikTok; and we have always taken down such posts upon identification. In addition, we have taken strict measures on the mechanism that identify influencers in order to prevent anyone from posting fraudulent or misleading content, or gain unfair benefits through the influencer marketing platform.”
Mozilla also noted that there were multiple reports of Mozilla Tiktok Tiktokzakrzewski users being penalized for posting negative political messages , which would be another example of how ByteDance could be using their platform to exert censorship.
“TikTok is also a platform for political expression, so it is likely that partners using the platform for political activity might face governmental pressure and punishment. In addition, there are several cases of users being penalized on TikTok for posting political messages. This could be another example of how ByteDance’s system may intimidate users into not voicing dissenting opinions,” Mozilla researchers said in their report.
As previously mentioned, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, released a statement on their commitment to providing “healthy content.” You can read the statement in full below:
“As a creator platform and major influencer marketing platform in China, TikTok has always prioritized user experience and healthy content ecosystem. We already have a dedicated team to screen every one of our influencers for credibility and trustworthiness.