Ukraine raises alarm over Russia’s TikTok tactics

TikTok has increased safety measures in Ukraine, but there are concerns about data security and misinformation, leading to pressure on ByteDance, TikTok’s owner, from the US and the EU.

 Electronics, Mobile Phone, Phone, Person

Ukraine has issued a warning about Russia’s escalating use of TikTok to challenge President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s legitimacy and erode national morale amid Russia’s military actions. Russian influencers and bots are reportedly behind viral TikTok videos targeting 20 May, the date when Zelenskiy’s first term would have ended if not for election disruptions due to martial law. Andriy Kovalenko, a senior official focused on countering Russian misinformation, highlighted Russia’s systematic approach to TikTok, exploiting the platform to sway public opinion.

As Russia continues its military campaign against Ukraine, it has expanded its information warfare to platforms like TikTok alongside traditional battlegrounds. The use of TikTok to disseminate misinformation represents a strategic shift in Russia’s multifaceted approach to influencing public perception and leveraging its advantage in cyberspace. TikTok, owned by ByteDance, has responded by enhancing safety measures and removing harmful misinformation in Ukraine amid broader scrutiny over data security and misinformation concerns from the US and the EU.

In response to these challenges, Ukraine advocates for greater cooperation from social media companies like TikTok by urging them to establish full-scale offices in Kyiv to combat disinformation effectively. Kovalenko, who actively uses TikTok to counter false narratives, emphasised the need to adapt Ukraine’s approach to this influential platform. The call for action by Kovalenko comes as TikTok reports uncovering covert influence operations related to Ukraine conflict and removing millions of problematic videos during the last quarter.

Why does it matter?

Ukraine’s efforts to confront Russia’s information campaign on TikTok reflect broader concerns over the app’s influence and security. While governments like the US and the EU take measures to safeguard against potential threats posed by platforms like TikTok, the ongoing geopolitical dynamics and the use of social media as a battleground highlight the complex challenges digital technologies pose in the modern information landscape.