As the prospect of a US TikTok ban continues to grow, the video app has revamped its content moderation policy. The rules about what content can be posted and promoted are largely unchanged, but include new restrictions on sharing AI deepfakes, which have become increasingly popular on the app in recent months.
Most of these moderation policies (or “community guidelines,” in TikTok’s parlance) are unchanged, and unsurprisingly. There is no explicit violence allowed, no hate speech, and no overtly sexual content, with graded rules for the latter based on the subject’s age. However, a new expanded section covers “synthetic and manipulated media” – also known as AI deepfakes, which have become increasingly popular on the app in recent months.
Previously, TikTok’s rules on deepfakes were limited to a single rule prohibiting content that “could mislead users by distorting the truth of events” [or] significantly harm the subject of the video.” Now the company says all realistic AI-generated and edited content must be “clearly disclosed” as such, either in the video caption or as an overlay sticker.
Deepfakes of celebrities and non-public figures are prohibited
TikTok says it will not allow synthetic media “that bear the likeness of a real private figure” or show a public figure endorsing a product or violating other policies of the app (i.e. hate speech ban). The company defines public figures as anyone 18 years of age or older with “an important public role, such as a government official, politician, business leader or celebrity.”
AI-generated content has grown in popularity on TikTok, largely due to the greater availability of AI voice cloning tools that make it easy to mimic someone’s voice. These tools have created new subgenres of content, often focused on placing public figures such as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in unexpected scenarios, such as turning the president’s personalities into discussions of online gaming or Dungeons and Dragons, For example.
Other use cases are more harmful. Many AI counterfeits show the same numbers reading transphobic or homophobic statements and are sometimes mistaken for real images. TikTok’s ban on deepfake recommendations, meanwhile, appears to be in response to a specific video that used AI to spoof advertising for Joe Rogan a “libido booster for men.” Such videos have also spread on apps like Twitter and Instagram.
The update to TikTok’s policy comes at a time of mounting political pressure for parent company ByteDance, as Western governments express fears about the app’s collection of private data and its potential to influence public opinion. The US government has reportedly threatened a public ban on TikTok if owner ByteDance doesn’t sell its stake, when the app already is prohibited on government devices in the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.
TikTok isn’t directly addressing these threats to its business with this updated policy, but notes that it wants to provide “a lot more transparency about our rules and how we enforce them.” The company also publishes a list of eight “Community Principles” that it says “shape our daily work and guide how we approach difficult enforcement decisions.” In particular, the first two principles are “prevent harm” and “enable freedom of expression”.
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