Washington, DC – During last week’s Congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified that TikTok labels state-backed media accounts. A new analysis from the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund shows that’s not always the case.

In the piece out today, Joseph Bodnar, a research analyst at ASD at GMF, identifies 78 TikTok accounts that are likely tied to Kremlin-funded outlets. As of March 22, those accounts had more than 14 million followers and had generated more than 319 million likes. Forty-seven of those accounts are labeled, but 31 of them are not—showing gaps in TikTok’s policies and leaving users vulnerable to Russian disinformation. But even accounts that are labeled are reaching millions of people.

“Russian state media is reaching millions on TikTok. Its unlabeled accounts are going unchecked as they spread the Kremlin’s lies and propaganda to audiences around the world. Even labeled accounts, like RT en Español, are outperforming major independent media on TikTok,” report author Joseph Bodnar said. “The platform needs to do more to limit the reach of Russia’s propaganda apparatus.” 

The unlabeled accounts include RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, whom the State Department has described as one of “Putin’s main faces of propaganda and disinformation,”  RT Arabic, and RT France.

Read the analysis here: https://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/tiktoks-russia-challenge/

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.