Many youngsters today are turning to TikTok for search purposes as the social media platform contains various content, from recipes and movie recommendations to the best restaurants in an area. However, a new report by NewsGuard, a fact-checking organization, discovered that TikTok also contains an astounding amount of misinformation about serious topics. It analyzed 540 TikTok videos for this research and found that 105 have “false or misleading” claims.
Furthermore, NewsGuard reported, “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.”
The fact-checking organization also noted that while their analysts used neutral and more conspiracy-laden search terms for this study, TikTok suggested controversial terms. For instance, typing “climate change” may cause the app to suggest searching “climate change doesn’t exist.” And typing “COVID vaccine” might prompt TikTok to add “exposed” onto the end.
Additionally, the study found that besides misinformation regarding significant political issues like the Jan 6 Capitol attack, the Russia-Ukraine war, etc., TikTok also had considerable health misinformation, which can be dangerous.
In particular, NewsGuard discovered multiple TikTok videos promoting false cures for Covid-19 and homemade concoctions that aim to induce abortion. In worst-case scenarios, these cures could prove hazardous and even life-threatening for an individual.
What does TikTok say?
A TikTok spokesperson stated regarding this issue, “Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform. Furthermore, we partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health. In addition, we team up with independent fact-checkers who help us assess the content’s accuracy.”
Moreover, in a previous transparency report, TikTok revealed removing over 340,000 videos in the U.S. for sharing “election misinformation, disinformation, or manipulated media.” In addition, the platform deleted more than 50,000 videos that were spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
On another note, NewsGuard reported, “Although a TikTok spokesperson told NewsGuard in July 2022 that videos promoting herbal abortions violated the site’s community guidelines and would be removed, NewsGuard found that two months later, herbal abortion content continues to be easily accessible on the platform.”
The fact-checking organization remarked, “While not all methods encouraged on TikTok are lethal, others promoted in the videos can cause serious harm, and scores of medical experts have told news outlets that trying to manage an abortion with herbs is unsafe.”
Seeing the increasing number of youth turning to TikTok as a substitute search engine, the report by NewsGuard is a cause for grave concern.
However, TikTok is a platform where people share ideas and create content that can sometimes be educational. Nonetheless, people must double-check whatever information they gain from the platform with more reliable sources, especially when it concerns health or politics.