TikTok today announced it’s expanding its “state-controlled media” label to more than 40 additional global markets, to alert users when videos they’re seeing on the app are being published by entities whose “editorial output or decision-making process” is subject to influence by a government, the company said on Wednesday. The pilot initially began last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by labeling state-controlled media in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. When tapped, the label provides the user with more information about what the label means and why it’s being applied.
Since its launch, accounts run by Russian media organizations like RT, Ruptly, Sputnik, RIA Novosti, TASS and dozens of others have had the label added to their videos.
The Beijing-based video entertainment app is not being progressive with this implementation of the state-controlled media label. If anything, it’s delayed. TikTok’s peers have offered a similar system for labeling state-run media for years. For instance, YouTube in 2018 said it would begin to label state-funded broadcasters, and last year blocked Russian state-run channels from monetizing through ad dollars alongside Facebook. Meta had also been labeling state-controlled media since 2020 across its platform. And, prior to Elon Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s policy since 2020 had also been to label state-owned media. (Musk has been making jokes about the label, so it’s unclear if the policy will shift.)
In TikTok’s case, the company says it evaluates the editorial independence of an operation by considering its mission statement, editorial practices and safeguards, leadership and editorial governance, and its actual editorial decisions. It also offers an appeals process if an entity feels they’ve been unfairly labeled by its trust and safety team.
The company said it has worked with a variety of experts ahead of its pilot program, including consultations with more than 60 media experts, political scientists, academics and members from various international organizations and civil society groups worldwide.
TikTok’s handling of misinformation around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hasn’t been fully effective, however.
The company in March said it would cut off new content originally in Russia in response to the country’s new “fake news” law about the invasion, but continued to allow several prominent Russian state media accounts to post.
And it wasn’t until now that the label is reaching high-profile markets, like the U.S., Canada, parts of Europe, China and others.
TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch the label will be available in the following countries:
Afghanistan, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mongolia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan.
The expansion comes amid a renewed crackdown on the short-form video app in the U.S., which former President Donald Trump had originally tried to ban in 2020 due to national security threats, only to have the ban stopped by the courts and later, the Biden administration.
But in recent weeks, a number of U.S. states and the U.S. House have now banned TikTok from government-issued devices over mounting security concerns that TikTok shares data with the Chinese government. Forbes also accused the company of spying on its journalists and, last year, BuzzFeed reported TikTok staff in China was accessing U.S. user data, leading TikTok to move the data to Oracle servers in the U.S.