TikTok is enabling last-ditch smears of Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, to spread across the platform, despite the company's policy prohibiting misinformation.
New conspiracy theories claiming that child pornography was found on laptop drives purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden originated on the fringes of the internet and have eventually made their way to Fox News. These conspiracy theories emerged just over a week prior to the 2020 presidential election appear to be part of a larger disinformation campaign centered around the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory as well as an attempt to implicate Joe Biden as a pedophile.
While the baseless far-right conspiracy theories are constantly evolving, the bad-faith framing of the Bidens as child abusers has stayed consistent. Media Matters has identified six hashtags on TikTok promoting this disinformation campaign targeting Hunter and sometimes Joe Biden with over 1.76 million views
TikTok’s misinformation policy states, “We do not permit misinformation that causes harm to individuals, our community or the larger public.” Yet the platform has allowed this targeted disinformation campaign to continue even though it appears constructed to intentionally deceive the American voters -- something that also hasn’t stopped right-wing media from amplifying it.
The hashtag “#BidenForPrison” has 1.4 million views and relates to the Pizzagate conspiracy theory that falsely claimed a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C., helped facilitate a child trafficking ring, leading a gunman to “self-investigate” and open fire in the restaurant. TikTok already has the “#pizzagate” hashtag blocked from its platform, but this one is still active.
“#BidenLaptop” (over 45,000 views), “#HunterBidenLaptop” (39,200 views), and “#HuntersLaptop” (almost 117,000 views) are directly related to the new disinformation campaign. While other permitted content is also using these hashtags, they are ultimately being used to elevate TikToks that promote the conspiracy theory.
Videos in the hashtag “#BidenLovesChildren” (over 20,000 views) falsely claim the former vice president is a pedophile who should be in jail.
“#HunterBidenIsACrook” (over 147,000 views) is being used to circulate further misinformation. One of the videos displays a text post that reads, “According to our police source, that police department CONFIRMED that the laptop contained suspected child pornography.”