The 15th Malaysian General Election is happening next month, and social media is set to play host as the battleground between the various competing parties and politicians. As we inch closer to the decision day, tech giants Meta and ByteDance will seemingly have very different approaches in terms of political advertisements on their platform.
According to a report by Malay Mail, ByteDance’s TikTok will not be allowing any political advertising to take place on their platform in light of GE15. Representatives from TikTok told the paper that they don’t see themselves as a place for breaking news. However, they will still have mechanisms in place to ensure that misinformation and false news doesn’t spread on the platform, having learnt their lessons after the recent Philippines and US elections. Part of this includes working with the Associated Foreign Press (AFP) and both human and AI fact checkers, and with help from their fact checking partners they can assess the accuracy of the content on their platform.
TikTok adds that they use a combination of policies, technology and human moderation to address content and behaviour that goes against their community guidelines, which includes removing misleading content when necessary. There’s also a report button available on all videos so that you can report anything suspicious to them.
TikTok seemingly acknowledged that by not allowing political advertising on their platform for GE15, there would be a loss of potential revenue, but the video sharing platform doesn’t seem to mind it as long as their content remained true and fun. They claim that they would rather ensure that TikTok remains a credible space in the fight against misinformation. There will also be educational TikTok videos made for community members to educate them on how to become more savvy digital citizens as well as how to report misinformation and misleading content on the platform.
In contrast, Meta—the people behind the likes of Facebook and Instagram—has a different view. Meta tells Malay Mail that they will be allowing political advertising during election season but will make all of paid adverts public information. The social media giant sees it as an opportunity to not only allow the major parties but also the smaller ones to engage with their voters.
“The reason we’re accepting political advertising is based on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, so they can decide who they want to vote for. We have also heard from small campaigners saying accepting advertising allows them a voice,” – Roy Tan, Meta Head of Politics and Government Outreach, Asia-Pacific
All political advertisements will be placed into the ‘Ad Library’ section of Meta, which provides a searchable collection of all ads currently running on their platforms such as Facebook. On top of that, anyone who purchases an ad on Meta for political purposes will need to authenticate their identity and location as well as provide context and information on who is footing the bill for the ad. This is so that Meta can inform people who is paying for the ads that they see when they scroll across their Facebook or Instagram feed.
They also have measures in place to ensure that there won’t be any misleading posts that violate their standards and guidelines, which includes a strategy of removing content that violates community guidelines, reducing distribution of low quality and false news, removing the ability to monetise such content and to give the public some context to the information shared to that users can understand and form their own opinions on whether to trust it.
This comes just a few months after Meta had tracked and taken down a huge internet ‘troll farm’ in Malaysia. Back in August, Meta published a report highlighting the various policy violations that they had seen across the world. One section in particular seemed quite worrying, as it documented a troll farm in Malaysia consisting of at least 596 Facebook accounts, 180 Facebook pages, 11 Facebook groups and 72 Instagram accounts with alleged links to the PDRM. They would post content in support of the police, criticise the opposition and pretended to be an independent news outlet in an effort to manipulate public debate. Meta had since taken down all of these accounts on their platforms.
In the meantime, in the lead up to the 19th of November, you can click here to find out more about how to check your registration status, polling location and constituency in preparation for GE15.