According to a report published on Wednesday, TikTok is providing false information to users looking for news about politics, the environment, COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine, and other topics.
Research by the media watchdog NewsGuard reveals that toxicity and misleading claims are a "significant threat" on TikTok, which is quickly becoming a popular online destination for young people to conduct informational searches.
A "journalism and technology tool" according to NewsGuard, that ranks the reliability of websites and online information. "Even when TikTok's search results yielded little to no misinformation, the results were often more polarising than Google's," NewsGuard said.
Twenty-seven TikTok searches on news-related issues' top 20 results were examined by NewsGuard in September. According to the research, 19.5% of the videos were found to contain untrue or deceptive assertions.
Researchers contrasted TikTok and Google search results for news articles on topics like school shootings, abortion, COVID-19, US elections, Russia's conflict in Ukraine, and other topics.
According to NewsGuard, false or deceptive statements in the findings included QAnon conspiracy theories and purported home remedies for the pharmaceutical medicine hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria and lupus.
The analysis methodology, according to TikTok, is incorrect, and it places a high premium on combating false information.
"Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform," a TikTok spokesperson said. "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 the content."
The Chinese government is an investor in Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok, and has incentives to maximize profit and user engagement, according to Alex Roetter, a former senior vice president of engineering at Twitter who testified on Wednesday at a Senate hearing on the impact of social media on national security.
"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," Roetter told Senators. Roetter noted in her opening remarks that despite any negative consequences such content may have on society, social media firms stand to gain from it.
TikTok chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas stated at the hearing that "our terms of service and community guidelines are built to help ensure our vision of a safe and authentic experience."
"Our policies have zero tolerance for disinformation, violent extremism, and hateful behavior."