By some estimates, there are one billion people using TikTok around the world. The social media platform has led the industry in engaging content and new features, but has lagged behind when it comes to delivering on key aspects of transparency, such as sharing information about who is paying for advertising on its platform.
Two years after Mozilla led the call for TikTok to release an ad archive, the company has finally responded. At the start of the year, TikTok released a research API in the U.S. and recently it announced it’s expanding access to Europe.
This is a big victory for the thousands of Mozilla supporters who publicly called on TikTok to be more transparent — and for Mozilla’s research team who worked hard to expose the need for more information about paid content on TikTok. Yet again we’ve seen that when internet users come together they can force social media companies to do better.
Two years after Mozilla led the call for TikTok to release an ad archive, the company has finally responded.
Ashley Boyd, Senior Vice President, Mozilla
TikTok’s release of an ad archive, which includes branded posts from influencers alongside traditional ads, is real progress. This is in compliance with the European Union’s Digital Services Act, legislation that Mozilla has also advocated for. Substantially, Mozilla’s research helped shaped pertinent sections of the DSA which demanded "commercial communications" be explicitly defined as advertising, and encapsulated within the regulation.
However, last week’s announcement falls short of the transparency we need from TikTok, and all social media companies. Most importantly, TikTok needs to ensure its ad archive is global and not limited to the U.S. and EU. Our recent research into how TikTok is being used to spread misinformation in Kenya shows the need to have a consistent approach to trust and safety in every country it operates in.
For years, Mozilla has urged social media platforms to release ad archives and APIs for researchers globally. To support adoption of effective tools, we provided detailed guidelines for doing so. We will continue to monitor TikTok’s implementation of its new regulatory obligations in Europe, and also to urge TikTok to broaden the scope of its ad archive globally.