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TikTok defends platform amid concerns over political disinformation

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
TikTok defends platform amid concerns over political disinformation
Speaking with ‘The Chiefs’ over Cignal TV’s One News on Friday night, TikTok Philippines head of public policy Toff Rada said they have adopted a two-pronged approach to address disinformation ahead of the elections.
AFP / Joel Saget

MANILA, Philippines — Social media platform TikTok has denied being a “primary driver” of political disinformation during the recent national and local elections in the Philippines.

Speaking with ‘The Chiefs’ over Cignal TV’s One News on Friday night, TikTok Philippines head of public policy Toff Rada said they have adopted a two-pronged approach to address disinformation ahead of the elections.

“The problem of fake news, all platforms have to deal with that problem. All of us are taking action to remove it,” he said in Filipino.

“For us in TikTok, we have two methods: We use AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning to take down patent forms of misinformation. We also have a trust and safety team, which is human moderation,” he added.

Rada said they have also partnered with different organizations, including fact-checkers, to address disinformation on the platform, as well as rolled out a digital literacy initiative to promote critical thinking among users.

But he disputed reports that the platform was extensively used to spread false claims during the campaign period.

“What we observed on TikTok, the ones that go ‘viral’ as they call it, are the ones that have really authentic and creative expressions… We do allow authentic political expressions, and the ones that get most traction – we noticed – are the ones that have a badge of authenticity and creative. Not the ones that were manufactured in the studio,” he said.

“The ones that get traction the most on TikTok are actually the positive ones. We noticed that a lot of negative content don’t really get that much traction. That was what we observed, and it’s consistent still with the overall environment and community we see on TikTok,” he added.

Rada also denied that the platform was a key battleground during the recent elections, noting that only a few candidates have their own accounts.

Among presidential candidates, he said it was Manila Mayor Isko Moreno who had the most followers, followed by presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo.

But he admitted that the number of followers is just one data point.

A recent report noted that videos containing hashtags related to Marcos were the most viewed content related to the elections.

Rada, however, maintained that TikTok remains this “nice, bright, shiny thing” on the internet that allows users to find entertaining content.

“While it’s true that there are a lot of young users on TikTok, I don’t think they necessarily go to TikTok to look for political content. Like I said, that’s not the universe of TikTok,” he said.

Still, he maintained that their trust and safety team is working continuously to address issues related to disinformation.

“We also recognize that it’s not a perfect system. From time to time, there may be mistakes. We continually take steps to improve our system,” he added.

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