2022 French Presidential Elections seen through Tiktok and Youtube

Monitoring the visibility of French candidates on TikTok and YouTube Search Engines during the 2022 presidential campaign.

project overview

As part of our commitment to promoting transparency and fairness in the digital age, we undertook a comprehensive 4-month audit of TikTok and YouTube's search and recommendation engines during the French Elections. Our objective was to monitor and assess the visibility of political candidates on these platforms, shedding light on potential discrepancies and challenges in the digital political landscape.

Our analysis revealed significant variations in visibility that did not always align with public vote intentions. Furthermore, we observed notable distinctions between the two platforms, reflecting diverse policy frameworks and algorithms.

In traditional media channels such as television and radio, regulatory bodies ensure equitable airtime for each candidate to maintain political pluralism and prevent manipulation. However, this regulatory framework is absent in the realm of social media, posing unique challenges in defining and governing candidate exposure.

Our study utilized a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to explore the feasibility of regulating social media platforms in the context of elections. Leveraging Tracking Exposed’s open-source software, we gathered data from TikTok and YouTube over a 4-month period—spanning from January 15, 2022, to the second round of elections on April 24, 2022. Our data collection involved querying platforms using neutral and candidate-specific election-related terms in French.

Our project's findings underscore the pivotal role of social media platforms in shaping political discourse and the urgency of establishing transparency and potentially regulatory measures for candidate exposure, especially within diverse election contexts.

For a comprehensive overview of our findings and analysis, we invite you to explore our detailed report.

We reported our results within an election integrity Expert Committee set by the French media regulator ARCOM.

Our report was cited on multiple occasions, and will inform upcoming efforts in France to regulate social media during election campaigns. Our findings were also integrated in a larger report, aggregating election integrity monitoring efforts from several organizations.

Content relating to the 2022 election in general or featuring its candidates received large-scale engagement on TikTok and YouTube. This shows that despite TikTok’s claim to be solely an entertainment platform, it is also a major channel for political content, alongside YouTube.