Report indicates TikTok’s search results create polarisation

PHOTO: V.T. Polywoda via Flickr

A new report on TikTok’s search feature has concluded that the social media platform is producing polarising information. Climate change, politics, the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 searches were all found to produce misinformation on the platform. The study, by NewsGuard, claims that toxicity and false claims are a “significant threat” at TikTok.

NewsGuard is self-described as a “journalism and technology tool” as it rates the credibility of certain websites. The company noted that TikTok’s search results were more polarising than Google’s, despite producing little to no misinformation. A study back in September found that the top 20 results from 27 TikTok searches on news topics, found that 19.5 per cent of suggested videos contained false or misleading claims.

NewsGuard researchers said they compared TikTok and Google search results for information concerning abortion, Covid-19, school shootings, US elections, the war on Ukraine, and other news.

Conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon and apparent home recipes for hydroxychloroquine (a drug that has been used to treat malaria and lupus), were found in the searches.

But a spokesperson at TikTok says that NewsGuard’s method is flawed.

“Our 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 former senior vice president of engineering for Twitter, Alex Roetter, testified yesterday at a Senate hearing on the impact of social media on national security. In his testimony, he said that the Chinese government is an investor in TikTok parent company Bytedance. He went further to say that the government has incentives to maximise profit and user engagement.

Roetter says social media companies stand to benefit from attention-grabbing online content despite the harmful effects it may have on society. He then noted that the algorithm pushes different information on Chinese youth compared to that of US youth.

“The TikTok algorithm pushes educational science, engineering, and math content on Chinese youth while pushing a feed containing twerking videos, misinformation, and other destructive content to US children.”

Chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas says the social media giant’s terms of service and community guidelines help ensure the company’s vision of a safe and authentic experience.

“Our policies have zero tolerance for disinformation, violent extremism and hateful behaviour.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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