TikTok 'failing to meet its own standards' on vaccine misinformation

TikTok 'failing to meet its own standards' on vaccine misinformation

Social media platform TikTok is failing to attach links to trustworthy sources of information to many videos on its platform which contain misinformation on Covid-19 and vaccines, according to new research. Picture: Getty 

Social media platform TikTok is failing to attach links to trustworthy sources of information to many videos on its platform which contain misinformation on Covid-19 and vaccines, according to new research.

Last year, TikTok announced that it would be attaching a banner to vaccine-related videos advising users where they could access “verifiable, authoritative sources of information” about the coronavirus and vaccines.

It planned to do this through an analysis of hashtags and related words in the captions of posts.

However, a new report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) found that on nearly 60% of videos, no such banner was displayed leaving countless users potentially exposed to harmful misinformation.

As part of its review, the ISD examined 6,241 Covid-19 vaccine-related videos on TikTok. Of these, 3,608 did not feature the platform’s banner linking to trustworthy sources.

ISD’s researchers also found that because many TikTok videos contained false information, but do not include text-based references, they continue to spread freely, often racking up hundreds of thousands of views in the process.

Researchers gave examples of how some hashtags posts are less likely to be tagged as misinformation by the platform.

Of the 1,008 posts analysed by the ISD with the explicit hashtag #NoVaccineForCOVID-19, 439 (43%) contained TikTok’s trustworthy info banner.

But of the 352 posts analysed with the more suggestive hashtag #NoToTheJab, just 85 (24%) displayed it.

The research also examined ‘duet posts’ which is a post where a user reacts to a video from another person.

In one 'duet post' a user reacts positively to a TikTok clip of a woman advising against getting vaccinated.

While the original clip of the woman was removed from the site, the ‘duet’ post, which contains every second of the original video, is still available and features no trustworthy vaccine information banner.

Overall, the ISD researchers say their work demonstrates that TikTok is “failing to meet the standard it set itself.”

“During a public health crisis like Covid-19, it is vitally important that online platforms act quickly to mitigate against such shortcomings when they are identified,” said Ciaran O’Connor, the report’s author.

Contacted by the Irish Examiner for a response, a TikTok spokesperson said the platform’s community guidelines “make clear that we do not allow medical misinformation, including misinformation relating to Covid-19 vaccines”. 

The spokesperson said TikTok “works diligently to take action on content and accounts that spread misinformation, while also promoting authoritative content about vaccines through our Covid-19 information hub” .

"We are continually working to update our keywords and filters to make sure that we are providing up-to-date information about the vaccine to our community, and are grateful to third-party organisations whose research helps strengthen how we enforce our policies to keep our platform safe."

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