At the end of March the CEO of one of the world’s most popular social media apps was grilled by US Congress.  

Whilst in the hotseat, Shou Zi Chew of TikTok was confronted by Congressman Veasey who challenged Chew with the troubling results of a Global Witness investigation into the platform.

Ahead of the 2022 US midterm elections the Digital Threats to Democracy campaign partnered with NYU Tandon’s Cybersecurity for Democracy team to test whether the platform could detect and remove blatant election disinformation.

Despite TikTok claiming to ban political ads, we found that they in fact approved 90% of our test disinformation ads for publication. Nine out of the ten ads we submitted were accepted, including ads that stated the wrong election date and even encouraged people to vote twice.

Put on the spot by the Congressman – who asked Chew if he knew that it is a felony to vote twice in the US - Chew stated that “any misinformation that comes around a political election is something we take very seriously”. When pressed on how he planned to eradicate election disinformation from his platform, Chew prevaricated: “I need to look into the specifics”, he said, and promised to review our report and get back to the Congressman. 

We look forward to hearing what Chew has to say about our investigation but remain clear: protecting democracy is not optional and social media platforms have repeatedly shown themselves to be unable to uphold their own policies.

States must therefore step in and regulate platforms to protect our rights and safeguard our democracies. Whilst we wait for legislators to act we will continue to call on platforms to respect their users, their rights, their safety -  and their democracies  - wherever they are in the world.