Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

TikTok announced new rules for its users on Wednesday to curb misinformation and manipulation ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: The Chinese-owned karaoke app aims to show that its platform won't be vulnerable to election-related mischief and malice, as it weighs a deal to sell itself to Microsoft to forestall a ban by the Trump Administration.

What's new: The company announced 3 major changes to its content policy, which hadn't been amended since January.

  1. It's updating its policies on misleading content to more explicitly prohibit synthetic or manipulated content (i.e., deepfakes) "that misleads users by distorting the truth of events in a way that could cause harm." It's also making its policies on election meddling clearer by defining what it considers to be "coordinated inauthentic behavior."
  2. It's expanding fact-checking partnerships with PolitiFact and Lead Stories to screen potential misinformation related to the 2020 U.S. election. These partners already help TikTok fact-check around issues like climate change and COVID-19 misinformation. TikTok is also adding an in-app option for users to report election misinformation for review.
  3. It's working with with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Countering Foreign Influence Task Force (CFITF). TikTok didn't say much more about this partnership, but noted that it's also working with a number of "industry-leading threat assessment platforms" to help safeguard against inauthentic activity.

Be smart: TikTok has tried hard to stay away from politics, but as its platform grows, that's become more difficult.

The big picture: President Trump has given TikTok and Microsoft 45 days to hash out a deal after first threatening an immediate ban on TikTok.

  • TikTok users organized an effort that reportedly inflated signups for President Trump's ill-attended Tulsa rally in June. Some speculate that could have angered Trump and motivated him to try to ban TikTok.
  • There's also real bipartisan concern about TikTok's handling of U.S. user data in light of Chinese security laws, although the company says it stores none of that data in China or within its government's reach.

Go deeper

Facebook and Twitter, the reluctant gatekeepers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Deciding who gets to say what online is a complex business in the best of times, and the 2020 election is showing social media platforms just how messy it can get.

The big picture: Balancing concerns over misinformation, hacking and foreign meddling against free-speech principles is already hard enough. Tackling it in real time in the middle of a political knife fight is almost certainly going to go awry.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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The murder hornets are here

A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.