While the Americans Facebook and Twitter have not been available in Russia since the beginning of March, the Chinese social network TikTok still is, despite its commitments. Like China's position in the conflict in Ukraine, Beijing's digital flagship is conveniently navigating between two waters, which does not fail to irritate the NGO Tracking Exposed, which fights against profiling and influence. algorithms.
On March 6, the application belonging to the ByteDance group announced that it would suspend the publication of its content from Russian soil. In question, the new law punishing up to fifteen years in prison anyone holding "false information about the army". Claiming to want to protect its members from the wrath of the Kremlin justice, TikTok very quickly went further, blocking the publication of all foreign content to Russia. A second measure which transformed the social network into the official voice of the Kremlin, the Russian tiktokers having succeeded in pouring content via the web version of the platform, while no foreign information could circulate. The NGO Tracking Exposed exposed these flaws in April, forcing the Chinese giant to react.
But the story does not end there. Keeping an eye on TikTok, the NGO's researchers noticed that new content could indeed be published on the platform. These are not visible directly on the author's profile but via the "For you" page, precisely used by visitors to discover new content, as can be the Facebook news feed. Thus, looking more closely, the NGO finds that nothing has really changed compared to the use of the application before the war in Ukraine. Russian Tiktokers, like foreigners, have the possibility to share their publications.
The most likely hypothesis is that the social network has implemented a "shadow promotion" system, which consists of discreetly promoting prohibited content. Fear of user disengagement in the face of the lack of new content may have prompted TikTok to backtrack on its initial decision, no explanation having been provided by the company so far. A glaring lack of honesty, while the social network signed, in June, the new European code of conduct, which obliges platforms to be more transparent. For now, algorithms still rule the roost.