According to a stunning new investigation from Forbes, TikTok accounts posing as Chinese official media promoted messages that attacked Republican candidates and tried to boost Democratic ones ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
While the Chinese-owned social media app has explicitly stated the need to combat election misinformation and foreign intervention, Forbes discovered that some news-oriented profiles on the site omitted to identify their association with the Chinese Communist Party’s state-owned media.
The accounts in question reportedly had tens of millions of views on content about hot-button themes including abortion and racism. In addition, they also featured critical footage mostly targeting Republican politicians ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, in what appears to be an attempt to possibly inflame divisions within American society.
According to the company’s LinkedIn profile, the accounts are maintained by MediaLinks TV, which registered as a foreign agent for China with the Treasury Department in 2019 and distributes the U.S. branch of China Central Television (CCTV), CGTN.
Although none of the videos explicitly stated their affiliation with CGTN or the Chinese government, the accounts’ profile biographies did state, “Material broadcast by MediaLinks TV LLC on behalf of CCTV.” More information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.” according to reports.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese corporation ByteDance, raising concerns that the company gets commands or signals from the CCP and driving legislators to urge for the app to be banned across the federal government.
Researchers in technology and China have long been concerned about China’s election interference through social media content; cybersecurity firm Recorded Future warned ahead of the 2018 midterm elections that Chinese-run accounts were biased content surrounding President Trump and China-related issues.