TikTok has published its latest overview of Community Guidelines Enforcement responses, which outlines all of the videos and accounts that it either removed or otherwise took action on in Q2 this year.
And as the saying goes – ‘Mo’ Users, Mo’ Problems’.
Okay, that’s not a real saying, but it might as well be, given the rising amount of action being taken by TikTok’s team across the board.
First off, on video removals – TikTok took down over 113 million video clips between April and June this year due to policy violations and other issues - an 11% increase on the previous quarter, though that remains pretty much in line with the ongoing trend.
As you can see in this chart, TikTok’s video removals have steadily increased over time – which makes sense, given the app’s continued growth. But it also points to ongoing misuse, and how the scope of challenge in this respect continues to rise, intentionally or not, as people increasingly turn to the app.
But TikTok, too, is improving, specifically in terms of proactive removals, and getting rid of violative material before anybody sees it:
“Proactive removal of videos improved from 83.6% in Q1 to 89.1% in Q2; removal of videos at zero views improved from 60.8% in Q1 to 74.7% in Q2; and video removals in under 24 hours improved from 71.9% to 83.9%.”
So TikTok’s doing more to protect users from potentially harmful exposure in the app, though it may still have a way to go in policing misinformation specifically.
According to a recent study conducted by NewsGuard, up to 1 in 5 search results in the app contains misinformation, including searches for ‘2022 election’ to ‘mRNA vaccine’. Which is an interesting counter to TikTok’s own data, which would suggest, in isolation, that TikTok’s getting much, much better on this front.
Though, of course, misinformation is just one of the concerns that can see content removed in the app, with TikTok also providing an overview of the most common reasons for content removal for rule violations.
I would assume that misinformation falls under ‘Integrity and Authenticity’, which makes up only a fraction of its total enforcement action, with ‘Minor Safety’, ‘Illegal activity’ and ‘Nudity’ being the top causes for removal.
Minor safety is a critical concern for the app, especially given its younger user base, and the concern that TikTok incentivizes more risque content, especially from young girls, as part of its lure to keep people scrolling through their ‘For You’ feed.
Digging deeper into this element specifically, you can see that, within Minor Safety, ‘Nudity and Sexual Activity Involving Minors’ is by far the biggest reason for removal.
This, again, remains a crucial area of focus for TikTok, and clearly, based on these numbers, it is working to address this element. But on the flip side, it also remains a big concern that users are looking to post this type of material at all in the app, which also, in some ways, reinforces the argument that TikTok’s algorithms incentivize such activity.
In terms of account removals, fake accounts remain the biggest contributor, with over 33 million fake profiles removed in the period, a 62% increase on the previous quarter.
Again, that makes sense in relation to TikTok’s usage growth. As more people sign up, more fake profiles are also going to be created, either to juice people’s numbers, amplify questionable trends, or ‘engage’ in other illicit activity.
And definitely, social platforms are now seen as key conduits for amplifying movements, and swaying political opinion, with Meta reporting just yesterday that it continues to detect large-scale, state-backed manipulation efforts targeting people in various regions.
The fact that so many fake TikTok accounts are being created – or have at least been attempted to be created – also points to the growing value of the influencer industry, and how the market for fake followers in the app is likely on the rise. Supply and demand will see this trend continue upwards, which is why TikTok needs to remain vigilant on this aspect – or its influencers risk losing credibility, and value for brands.
Which it is also developing. In addition to these data notes, TikTok says that it’s continually evolving its systems, and continues to invest in technology-based flagging, on various fronts, as well as moderation and fact-checking.
“We have more than a dozen fact-checking partners around the world that review content in over 30 languages. All of our fact-checking partners are accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network as verified signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network's code of principles.”
TikTok also says that it’s implemented a new, proactive fact-checking program, which empowers fact-checkers to flag new and evolving claims that they're seeing across the internet.
“This allows us to look for these claims on our platform and remove violations. Since starting this program last quarter, we identified 33 new misinformation claims, resulting in the removal of 58,000 videos from the platform.”
TikTok also recently expanded its downvoting option for comments, which is not designed to signal how users may feel about that comment, as such, but more to flag potentially concerning replies to TikTok’s moderation team.
Overall, the data shows that TikTok is evolving its systems, in line with its broader growth, but the numbers also underline the importance of maintaining the pressure on these elements, and ensuring that it remains up to speed with the latest techniques and approaches that scammers are using to cheat its systems.
Aside from these, there are also other concerns related to algorithmic amplification in the app, and how TikTok is or isn’t influenced by the Chinese Government. Those issues remain a broader focus for cybersecurity and foreign policy experts, and could still become a much bigger issue for the platform - but in terms of clear violations and misuse, in relation to TikTok’s Community Guidelines, it’s clear that the platform still has its work cut out for it to keep ahead of emerging threats.
You can read TikTok’s full Community Guidelines Enforcement report for Q2 here.