While TikTok is no stranger to misinformation, the problem may be more serious than you think. According to the Associated Press, internet trust researchers at NewsGuard published a report claiming that nearly 20% of sampled search results for major news topics contained misinformation.
The false claims ranged from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to COVID-19 vaccines and the January 6th, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
n addition, NewsGuard discovered that typing innocuous queries can result in suggestions that are inaccurate. TikTok will offer searches related to climate science denial, for example, if you search for “climate change.”
According to the researchers, the results are also more polarizing than those obtained through Google, with 12 of the top 20 results for the 2022 US midterm elections including highly partisan statements.
We’ve reached out to TikTok for comment. A spokesperson for Facebook told NewsGuard that the company does not tolerate “harmful misinformation” and removes it from its platform.
TikTok has made it a point to remove false information. By the end of the year, it had removed nearly 350,000 videos related to the 2020 US presidential election. The company screens videos with AI and either automatically pulls flagged clips or sends them to human moderators.
As you might expect, the concern is that this approach does not catch enough offenders, particularly those who avoid using keywords that are likely to alert the AI.
Whatever the extent of the misinformation, the report comes at a bad time for TikTok. Vanessa Pappas, the company’s operations chief, is scheduled to testify today at a Senate hearing on the effects of social networking on national security.
The findings are unlikely to be discussed during the hearing, but they may increase pressure on TikTok to crack down on falsehoods.