Newsguard, a website evaluation service, has published a new report indicating that 20% of TikTok videos from searches on prominent news topics contained misinformation. According to the Newsguard report:
TikTok’s users, who are predominantly teens and young adults, are consistently fed false and misleading claims when they search on TikTok for information about prominent news topics. The NewsGuard investigation found that for a sampling of searches on prominent news topics, almost 20 percent of the videos presented as search results contained misinformation. This means that for searches on topics ranging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to school shootings and COVID vaccines, TikTok’s users are consistently fed false and misleading claims. Asked for comment about these findings, a TikTok spokesperson said that TikTok’s Community Guidelines “make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform. We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”
The toxicity of TikTok has become a significant threat because new research from Google suggests that TikTok is increasingly being used by young people as a search engine, as they turn to the video-sharing platform, instead of Google, to find information. In 2021, TikTok surpassed Google as the most popular website worldwide, according to the internet infrastructure company Cloudflare. The Wall Street Journal in August referred to TikTok as the “new Google.”
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported in March 2022 that TikTok was failing to control Kremlin propaganda on its platform, that the TikTok algorithm rapidly shows users misinformation on the Ukraine War, that China has quietly built a network of social media personalities and influencers who parrot the government’s perspective in posts on TikTok and other social media, and that hundreds of current employees at TikTok and its parent company ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media publications and that some of them still do.