TikTok expands state-affiliated media labels to promote brand safety and maintain consumer trust

The news: TikTok is expanding its labels that identify state-affiliated media to outlets in over 40 markets. The nations to which the labels are spreading include the US, Canada, France, Japan, and China, the home of TikTok parent ByteDance.

  • The requirements for the label consider elements like an organization’s funding, coverage, editorial independence, and journalistic standards. Publishers that want to challenge a state-affiliated classification can submit documentation of their editorial independence for review by outside experts.

How we got here: When it began the labeling in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the platform claimed it was “expediting” the trial program in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Several state-run Russian media outlets have been labeled under the policy.

  • Russian state-controlled media sources utilized TikTok to disseminate false material before the invasion, and the platform was overloaded with content on the Ukraine conflict that frequently lacked context or attribution.

The context: TikTok is trying to be seen as a benevolent player to regulators and lawmakers alike.

  • The platform recently announced an improved audience settings tool that gives creators the ability to limit their videos to adult audiences.
  • The app has gone so far as to consider opening up its algorithm to regulators.
  • But all its moves may not be enough: President Joe Biden has signed a bill that bans the app on US government devices and it faces challenges at the state level as well.

Our take: Labeling state-controlled media has become table stakes for social platforms competing on brand safety that want to attract ad dollars; YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all include similar labeling systems.

  • The state-controlled media labels also help protect against eroding consumer trust—something advertisers monitor closely.