TikTok will ban deepfakes in the US

TikTok will ban deepfakes in the United States. The company behind the platform, Beijing-based ByteDance, is tightening up its policy to combat misinformation. Keeping out deepfakes is part of that.

The company talks about enacting a policy banning synthetic or manipulated content that could mislead users by distorting the truth of events. In addition to deepfakes, shallowfakes are also prohibited. The latter category are less far-reaching, complex manipulations that usually do not involve artificial intelligence; this mainly concerns manual changes and selective edits.

According to Vanessa Pappas, a manager of TikTok’s US division, this type of content was already largely prohibited by the existing rules, but she says the update now makes the policy more clear to users. Political ads have already not been accepted by TikTok, as the platform believes that paid political ads are not in line with the experience its users expect.

TikTok is also going to ban ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior’, with which the network targets fake accounts and bots. This can, for example, mislead users about the identity of the account holder. In addition, existing fact-check partnerships will be expanded and the platform will collaborate with the US Department of Homeland Security to counter foreign influence on the platform.

It is not clear to what extent these steps will be widely applicable, or whether it will mainly focus on American use. Pappas specifically mentions countering content that could disrupt the 2020 election, likely referring to the US presidential election in early November.

TikTok could also eventually get a different owner. Microsoft confirmed on Monday that it is negotiating a takeover with ByteDance. Incidentally, that would not concern the European activities; they would remain in Chinese hands. Chinese owner ByteDance took over the app in 2017 and changed the name from Musical.ly to TikTok. The app has hundreds of millions of users. Ahead of news of the takeover plans, US President Trump said he would like to ban TikTok in the US, amid concerns and government investigations.