According to a study released on Wednesday, TikTok may be the go-to platform for entertaining videos. Still, anyone looking to learn about COVID-19, climate change, or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to find false information there.
When NewsGuard researchers searched TikTok for content on popular news subjects, they discovered that approximately 1 in 5 videos automatically suggested by the platform contained false information.
For instance, the top five videos that came up in searches for “mRNA vaccination” featured false material, including unfounded assertions that the COVID-19 vaccine results in “permanent harm in children’s essential organs.”
Researchers who searched for material on TikTok regarding abortion, the 2020 election, the January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol, climate change, or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine discovered comparable deceptive movies mixed in with more truthful pieces.
Given TikTok’s popularity among young people, the volume of falsehood — and the ease with which it can be found — is particularly alarming, according to Steven Brill, CEO of NewsGuard, a company that tracks misinformation.
Internet performance and security provider Cloudflare claims TikTok is the second most popular domain in the world, only behind Google.
Brill questioned whether ByteDance, the Chinese firm that controls TikTok, is doing enough to stop false information from spreading or is actively doing so to sow uncertainty in the United States and other Western democracies.
Brill says, “It’s either ineptitude or something worse.”
In reaction to the NewsGuard article, TikTok issued a statement in which it noted that its community guidelines forbid damaging disinformation and that it seeks to encourage authoritative content regarding significant subjects like COVID-19.
The business declared, “We do not permit damaging disinformation, mainly misinformation about medicine, and we will delete it from the platform.
According to the company, other actions done by TikTok are meant to point consumers to reliable sources. For instance, the business established an election center this year to assist American voters in locating polling locations or candidate information.
Researchers discovered that sometimes users might be directed to bogus claims using TikTok’s search tool. For instance, the search engine suggested searches for terms like “COVID vaccination exposure” and “COVID vaccine injured” when researchers entered the term “COVID vaccine.”
However, when the exact search was performed on Google, that search engine provided suggestions for searches that would produce more accurate results about vaccine clinics, the various vaccine types, and booster shots.
Violating TikTok Rules
The owner of the short-form video hosting platform TikTok, commonly known as Douyin in China, is the Chinese company ByteDance. It provides a wide variety of short-form user films in genres such as pranks, stunts, tricks, jokes, dancing, and entertainment, ranging from 15 seconds to ten minutes. In September 2016, Douyin was initially introduced to the Chinese market; TikTok is the app’s international version. 2017 marked the introduction of TikTok for iOS and Android in most regions outside mainland China. However, the app didn’t become international until it joined Musical.ly, another Chinese social media platform, on August 2, 2018.
The psychological consequences of TikTok, such as addiction, as well as debates over inappropriate content, false information, censorship and moderation, and user privacy, have all drawn criticism.
Users of the TikTok smartphone app may make short movies that can be sped up slowed down, or modified with a filter. These videos frequently include music playing in the background. In addition to the background music, they can contribute their audio. Users can select background music from a wide range of musical genres, edit with a filter, and shoot a 15-second video with speed adjustments before posting it to TikTok or other social media sites to share with others. Additionally, they may record quick lip-sync videos to well-known tunes.
In Early 2022, the platform eliminated more than 102 million videos for breaking its regulations—however, just a tiny portion of those violated TikTok’s policies against spreading false information.
State officials and federal lawmakers have taken notice of TikTok’s popularity surge, and some have voiced worries about the privacy and security of its data.
A hearing on social media’s effect on national security will be held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Chief Operating Officer of TikTok Vanessa Pappas, and executives from YouTube, Twitter, and Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, are scheduled to testify.