Russian state media is posting more on TikTok ahead of the U.S. presidential election, study says

Russian state-affiliated accounts have boosted their use of TikTok and are getting more engagement on the short-form video platform ahead of the U.S. presidential election, according to a study published Thursday by the nonprofit Brookings Institution.

The report states that Russia is increasingly leveraging TikTok to disseminate Kremlin messages in both English and Spanish, with state-linked accounts posting far more frequently on the platform than they did two years ago.

Such accounts are also active on other social media platforms and have a larger presence on Telegram and X than on TikTok. However, the report says user engagement — such as likes, views and shares — on their posts has been much higher on TikTok than on either Telegram or X.

“The use of TikTok highlights a growing, but still not fully realized, avenue for Russia’s state-backed information apparatus to reach new, young audiences,” reads the report, which drew data from 70 different state-affiliated accounts and was authored by Valerie Wirtschafter, a Brookings fellow in foreign policy and its artificial intelligence initiative.

The study notes that most posts do not focus on U.S. politics but other issues, like the war in Ukraine and NATO. However, those that do tend to feature more divisive topics like U.S. policy on Israel and Russia, and questions around President Joe Biden’s age, the Brookings report says.

A TikTok spokesperson said the company has removed covert influence operations in the past and eliminated accounts, including 13 networks operating from Russia.

The spokesperson said TikTok also labels state-controlled media accounts and will expand that policy in the coming weeks “to further address accounts that attempt to reach communities outside their home country on current global events and affairs.”

The Brookings report comes after Biden last month signed legislation forcing TikTok’s parent company — China-based ByteDance — to sell the platform or face a ban in the U.S. The potential ban is expected to face legal challenges.

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