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TikTok Unveils U.S. Voter Guide Amid White House Battle

Sarah Frier
·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- TikTok unveiled an election guide within its social-media network, an effort to rally potential voters at a time when many users have become more politically aware amid threats by the Trump administration to ban the app.

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd., is rolling out a guide to verified information about the November election from outside sources such as state election authorities and nonprofit groups like BallotReady and SignVote, the company said Tuesday. The guide will be offered in dozens of languages and linked at the bottom of election-related content, an attempt to stem the tide of misinformation that social networks have seen regarding elections.

The music-video sharing app, popular with teens and young adults, is positioned to reach people who may be voting for the first time, alongside rival Snap Inc. TikTok is also in a uniquely controversial position. President Donald Trump has ordered that TikTok be banned from U.S. app stores unless its local operations are sold to a domestic buyer, saying it poses a risk to national security. Trump’s executive order has sparked criticism and mockery from some teenagers, who say the app has helped entertain them with lighthearted content during the pandemic.

The app’s ban was temporarily blocked by a judge on Sept. 27. Meanwhile, ByteDance is trying to appease Trump with a sale of a stake in TikTok to Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc., in time for a Nov. 12 deadline for a full shutdown in the U.S.

TikTok said the election guide will provide its 100 million American users with reliable information on how and where to vote, and what candidates stand for. The company will also be including videos teaching users how to spot misinformation and understand their voting rights, courtesy of MediaWise, which promotes digital literacy.

With the automatic link to its guide on voting-related posts, TikTok’s approach is similar to Facebook’s. Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have been working to provide users more context around potentially false information. On a case-by-case basis, Twitter has hidden or labeled Trump’s tweets that mislead users about mail-in voting, saying explicitly when the information is false. On Facebook, the company automatically applies a label to posts about voting, directing users to its own election guide, without adding any judgment on the content.

“Our goal is to help keep TikTok a place where authentic content can thrive, and our elections guide reflects our ongoing effort to protect the integrity of our platform and the U.S. elections,” said Michael Beckerman, the company’s head of U.S. public policy, in a blog post.

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