Despite Western Countries’ Bans, TikTok Plays a Role in the Thai Election

Sawang Bunmee, ECT secretary and Chanida Klyphun, TikTok Thailand's chief of public policy

Thailand has agreed to work with TikTok to combat fake news, despite the fact that Western countries have banned the popular platform from all government-issued mobile devices.

The Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) has signed a collaboration with the short video platform TikTok to disseminate accurate information about the upcoming 2023 general election. The Election Centre on Tiktok will handle all misinformation on the platform during the election and campaign for each political party.

According to ByteDance advertising materials, there are 40.3 million adult users of TikTok in Thailand.

Sawang Bunmee, ECT secretary, announced a partnership with Tiktok on Feb. 24. The ECT and TikTok will help build an information center and debunk misinformation during the 2023 general election. They will help develop the process for filtering misinformation and disinformation, including slander that violates the Electoral Act, on the TikTok platform.

“This collaboration is a good start to getting everyone involved in the electoral process. Everyone is an important cog on the road to a lasting constitutional monarchy”

Thai election czar Sawaeng Boonmee, left, and TikTok Thailand’s chief of public policy, Chanida Kiyphun, announce a partnership on Feb. 24. (Photo courtesy of Election Commission of Thailand)

Chanida Klyphun, Head of Public Policy – Thailand, ByteDance, said TikTok is a platform that has a solid policy in dealing with misinformation, fake news and hurtful content. TikTok believes that one of the solutions is to present an accurate and credible center to the audience.

“We are pleased to be working with the ECT to launch the Election Center so that our users on the platform and the public can access election information and details accurately and securely.”

Chinada added that TikTok plans to work with organizations and authorities during the election period to share knowledge and assess any potential risks that may arise during the election.

TikTok will also educate all political parties and politicians to use the platform properly and to creatively use the security tools on the platform to verify and control correct content.

According to Associated Press, the White House is giving all federal agencies 30 days to wipe TikTok off all government devices, as the Chinese-owned social media app comes under increasing scrutiny in Washington over security concerns.

FILE – The White House is giving all federal agencies 30 days to wipe TikTok off all government devices, as the Chinese-owned social media app comes under increasing scrutiny in Washington over security concerns. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said Monday: “The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater.”

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, has long maintained that it does not share data with the Chinese government and that its data is not held in China. It also disputes accusations that it collects more user data than other social media companies, and insists that it is run independently by its own management.

But many countries remain cautious about the platform and its ties to China. Here are the countries and regions that have implemented partial or total bans on TikTok:

INDIA

India imposed a ban on TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, including the messaging app WeChat, in 2020 over privacy and security concerns. The ban came shortly after a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border killed 20 Indian soldiers and injured dozens.

The companies were given a chance to respond to questions on privacy and security requirements but the ban was made permanent in January 2021.

TAIWAN

In December 2022, Taiwan imposed a public sector ban on TikTok after the FBI warned that TikTok posed a national security risk. Government devices, including mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers, are not allowed to use Chinese-made software, which include apps like TikTok, its Chinese equivalent Douyin, or Xiaohongshu, a Chinese lifestyle content app.

UNITED STATES

This week, the U.S. said that government agencies have 30 days to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems over data security concerns. The ban applies only to government devices, though some U.S. lawmakers are advocating an outright ban. China lashed out at the U.S. for banning TikTok, describing the ban as an abuse of state power and suppressing firms from other countries. More than half of the 50 U.S. states also have banned the app from government devices.

CANADA

After the U.S. announcement, Canada on Monday announced government-issued devices must not use TikTok, saying that it presents an “unacceptable” risk to privacy and security. Employees will also be blocked from downloading the application in the future.

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Parliament, European Commission and the EU Council, three top EU bodies, have imposed bans on TikTok on staff devices. The European Parliament’s ban, announced Tuesday, takes effect on March 20. It has recommended lawmakers and staff remove the app from their personal devices.

PAKISTAN

Pakistani authorities have temporarily banned TikTok at least four times since October 2020, citing concerns that app promotes immoral content.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership banned TikTok and the game PUBG in 2022 on the grounds of protecting youths from “being misled.”