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TikTok a hotbed of US election misinformation, analysts say


The format of TikTok posts makes it easier to create misinformation, experts say

The format of TikTok posts makes it easier to create misinformation, experts say – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File JUSTIN SULLIVAN

Natalie WADE

Election misinformation is spreading on TikTok ahead of the US midterms despite the company’s policies — and watchdogs are concerned about its effect on young voters as more Americans use the platform as a source of news.

Posts spreading unfounded claims of voter fraud, falsehoods about mail-in ballots and misleading videos about different state laws have found a home on the immensely popular app.

Perhaps more troubling: TikTok has approved paid political advertisements containing blatant misinformation, a practice the company said in 2019 it had banned.

“Hackers can easily change the election results! Don’t bother voting in the midterms,” says one such ad.

It was one of several created by researchers at the non-profit Global Witness and New York University to test TikTok’s prohibition on paid political posts. The social media company approved 90 percent of ads the team submitted containing election misinformation.

“We were relatively shocked by that result,” said Jon Lloyd, a senior advisor at Global Witness, who described TikTok as “bottom of the class” compared to other social media platforms tackling election misinformation.

Such falsehoods coincide with more than eight million young US citizens being newly eligible to vote in the November 8 elections.

TikTok’s parent company, Beijing-based ByteDance, has rules aimed at limiting the spread of conspiracy theories about elections. But experts question how effective they are.

“Just because they had these policies in place, it doesn’t mean that they’re being enforced well,” Lloyd said, arguing that TikTok’s business model is based on “amplifying and driving people” towards content.

Although that criticism could be aimed at all social networks, a Pew Research Center survey found more than a quarter of Americans aged 18-29 regularly get news from TikTok — despite a sizeable minority of videos presented in search results containing misinformation, according to media monitor NewsGuard.

The platform’s powerful algorithm makes it possible for videos to quickly garner thousands of views, even without an established following.

And the sheer volume of content on TikTok makes it “more likely that users in general — especially more young, impressionable users — are going to come into contact with potentially divisive, polarizing, objectionable content,” said Matt Navarra, a social media industry analyst and consultant based in Britain.

– Falsehoods slip through cracks –

TikTok removes content that could mislead on “civic processes, public health or safety,” according to its integrity policies — including falsehoods about voting. The platform also prohibits campaign fundraising and recently launched an in-app election center.

“We take our responsibility to protect the integrity of our platform and elections with utmost seriousness,” a spokesperson for the company told AFP in an emailed statement. “We continue to invest in our policy, safety and security teams to counter election misinformation.”

However, baseless claims of ballot fraud and conspiracy theories shared by midterm election candidates are still circulating. It is not the first time TikTok has been used to spread election falsehoods.

Earlier this year, influencer campaigns on the platform played a role in the Philippines’ presidential contest. In Germany, accounts posed as parliament and public officials, and in Kenya, the app was a den for propaganda, hate speech and misinformation.

In the second quarter of 2022, TikTok removed 113 million videos for violating its community guidelines — an amount that represents about one percent of all videos uploaded to the platform. A small fraction of the posts were removed for violating the company’s integrity policies.

Reminded of how platforms such as Facebook have served as vectors for misinformation, including baseless claims from former president Donald Trump that the 2020 US election was “stolen” from him, analysts express little faith in TikTok’s incentive and ability to address the problem.

“That a company can actually make Facebook look good when it comes to misinformation and disinformation is an amazing achievement,” said NewsGuard CEO Steven Brill.

– Perfect breeding ground –

The format of TikTok posts makes it easier to create misinformation, experts say — and harder for users to tell fact from fiction.

“It’s very quick, very easy, very simple to create content and to build a substantial following,” Navarra said.

Posts are short, highly edited and often contain music, captions and voiceovers that analysts say make it hard to understand nuance.

NewsGuard senior analyst Jack Brewster said the threat to the democratic process was particularly stark, given TikTok’s young audience and many users’ inexperience in identifying credible information.

“If young people are searching for election news on the platform, the videos are inherently short, so context is often lost,” he said. “There’s little to no information often about the sources.”



How to Successfully Use Social Media: A Small Business Guide for Beginners [Infographic]


How to Successfully Use Social Media: A Small Business Guide for Beginners [Infographic]

Are you a small business owner or marketing manager, just getting started on building your social media strategy? Need to learn the basics before launching your first social media campaign?

In this infographic, Sprout Social shares social media tips broken down as follows:

  • Who uses social media?
  • What does social media do for you?
  • Define your goals
  • Targeting your audience
  • Choosing a platform
  • Social media metrics

Check out the infographic below to learn more.

How to Successfully Use Social Media: A Small Business Guide for Beginners

Sprout Social





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Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023


Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023

Moore Digital, which assists nonprofit clients with fundraising, has named Adva Priso as chief strategy officer and Bonnie Huey as senior vice president of
digital media.

They are joining a team of “more than 70 top digital experts from across the for-profit and nonprofit industries, including strategists,
media planners and …


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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report


Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

Pinterest has posted its Q4 and full-year earnings for 2022, showing steady increases in both users and revenue, as it continues to build out its various offerings.

First off, on users, Pinterest added five million more active users – most of them coming from Europe – within the final measurement period of last year.

That’s a good sign for Pinterest, which actually lost users in early 2021, after the COVID-induced boom in eCommerce activity of the previous year, which saw the platform post record high usage numbers.

Many analysts and businesses seemed convinced that the COVID boost to online shopping would hold, even after the pandemic ended. That lead to companies like Meta, Google, Amazon and Twitter investing big into commerce solutions – but many of the staff they put on were eventually culled in the most recent round of lay-offs, because once physical stores re-opened, people actually did go back to shopping as normal, as opposed to continuing to rely on online options.

Pinterest felt that the most, but now, it’s steadily building back up again, as it continues to refine its solutions around evolving shopping behaviors. Which includes video content.

Pinterest’s big winner on this front has been Idea Pins, its Stories-like option which presents uploaded video in a swipeable, full-screen display.

Pinterest Ideas Festival updates

The emphasis on this format has helped boost the platform’s appeal with younger audiences, with Pinterest reporting that Gen Z was the fastest-growing demographic on the platform, increasing double digits year over year.

“Gen Z sessions grew much faster year over year than sessions from older demographics, while nearly half of all new videos pinned in Q4 were from Gen Z users.”

Pinterest also says that sessions continued to grow faster than MAUs, an indicator that it’s driving better engagement overall, while it also increased its overall video supply by 30%, another marker of the popularity of Idea Pins.

Because you can’t post video as a native pin anymore, only in Idea Pins (or paid ads), underlining the focus on the format, and Pinterest’s evolving usage.  

On the revenue front, Pinterest posted a 4% year-over-year increase, after bringing in $877 million Q4.

Pinterest Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Pinterest’s revenue is climbing steadily, though its revenue splits remain concerning:

Pinterest Q4 2022

Or maybe you see this as an opportunity, with Pinterest still able to potentially eek out a lot more revenue from regions outside of the North American market. Definitely, it’s got some work to do in that ‘Rest of World’ bracket.

But Pinterest is still developing, and is still expanding its ad and business offerings into new regions. So there is, indeed, potential there – yet the size of the gap here is a concern.

Still, there is growth, slowly but surely, and maybe, if you’re a believer, you can see more ways for Pinterest to generate much bigger revenues moving forward.

Pinterest remains focused on shopping, and highlighting relevant products to users, with its ever-evolving recommendation engine providing better content matches to more users every day. It’s also investing in live-stream shopping, a trend that all platforms hope will catch on in western markets, while it’s developing more presentation tools for Idea Pins to capitalize on that engagement.

In combination, these approaches are working – but at the same time, usage growth in your local market may have stalled, going on these charts.

And of course, while overall growth is interesting, what marketers want to know is whether their customers are there.

For this, you can use Pinterest Trends, which enables you to search for the most popular Pin trends by region.

Pinterest Trends

Tap into these with Idea Pins and you’ll likely be on the right path, based on these latest insights from the app.


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