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TikTok performer Adam Rose. Photo: Storm Santos

TikTok’s Hidden Political Ads; How a Viral Dance Won a Fortnite Deal

Photo: TikTok performer Adam Rose. Photo: Storm Santos

When it comes to making sure its influencers fess up when they’re getting paid to post, TikTok has trailed peers like Instagram, which has a system that automatically prompts creators for such disclosures.

New research from Mozilla that exposed how influencers used undisclosed sponsorships to get around TikTok’s ban on political advertising should act as a warning. TikTok needs to move more aggressively on a system that requires such transparency—and crack down when influencers don’t. 

The Mozilla report found more than a dozen examples of social media influencers with apparent material ties to right and left-wing political organizations, ranging from financial compensation to gifts and free trips, without disclosing that backing. These appear to violate TikTok’s prohibition on paid political advocacy, which it’s banned since October 2019. 

“Influencer advertising isn't just Dunkin’ Donuts paying influencers,” said Brandi Geurkink, Mozilla’s senior manager of advocacy. “It already is, and increasingly will be, leveraged for political influence and disinformation in the near future.” 

A spokesperson for TikTok said “we continue to invest in people and technology to consistently enforce [its ban on political advertising] and build tools for creators on our platform.”

Other changes could be coming soon. The spokesperson said TikTok is currently testing a feature that would allow creators to tag videos that feature or reference a sponsored post or gift from a brand. 

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