Forbes has a report on how Chinese state media use TikTok to try to influence American elections. It dwarfs the piddling effort the Russians made several cycles ago:
TikTok accounts run by the propaganda arm of the Chinese government have accumulated millions of followers and tens of millions of views, many of them on videos editorializing about U.S. politics without clear disclosure that they were posted by a foreign government.
This is vastly beyond the nominal social media buy the Russians made in 2016.
The accounts are managed by MediaLinks TV, a registered foreign agent and Washington D.C.-based outpost of the main Chinese Communist Party television news outlet, China Central Television. The largest of them are @Pandaorama, which features cute videos about Chinese culture, @The…Optimist, which posts about sustainability, and @NewsTokss, which features coverage of U.S. national and international news.
So what does the Chinese Communist Party do with the millions of American TikTok users it has attracted? Mostly, it tries to swing elections toward the Democrats:
In the run-up to the 2022 elections, the @NewsTokss account criticized some candidates (mostly Republicans), and favored others (mostly Democrats). A video from July began with the caption “Cruz, Abbott Don’t Care About Us”; a video from October was captioned “Rubio Has Done Absolutely Nothing.” But @NewsTokss did not target only Republicans; another October video asked viewers whether they thought President Joe Biden’s promise to sign a bill codifying abortion rights was a “political manipulation tactic.” Nothing in these videos disclosed to viewers that they were being pushed by a foreign government.
The Forbes piece includes screen shots from these TikToks:
The Chinese also try to stir up hostility among Americans, mostly by repeating liberal talking points:
The most popular NewsTokss videos available on TikTok today largely focus on divisive U.S. social issues like guns, abortion and structural racism — all topics that were also used by Russian election meddlers seeking to divide Americans and weaken confidence in democratic institutions. These topics were also discussed by fake Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a China-based election influence operation earlier this year.
@NewsTokss posted six videos that day: four about mass shootings (one of which is captioned “A Uniquely American Plague”), and two about police officers killing an unarmed Black man.
This is a major news story. Or it would be, anyway, if the Democratic Party and (to repeat) America’s news outlets were not in the pocket of the Chinese Communist Party.