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TikTok Search Results Contain Massive Misinformation: Report

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An Internet trust research company has published a report about the amount of misinformation in the TikTok search results. As per the report, “almost 20 percent of the videos presented as search results contained misinformation.”

A few months ago, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance were accused of sending the US data abroad and allowing China-based employees to access US users’ data. Now, the Chinese video-sharing app is making the headlines again for its misinformation materials in the search results.

Internet trust researchers at NewsGuard have sampled TikTok search results and found that almost 20 percent of them contain misinformation. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, school shootings, COVID vaccines, and attacks on the US Capitol are the most prominent examples of misinformation on TikTok.

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TikTok says it’s battling misinformation on the platform

NewsGuard researchers claim TikTok search results are more polarizing than Google. They found that 12 out of the top 20 search results for the 2022 midterm contained hyper-partisan, left-leaning rhetoric. Additionally, searching for some terms like climate change results in “climate change debunked” and “climate change doesn’t exist.” videos.

In a statement provided to NewsGuard, a TikTok spokesperson said their platform “do not allow harmful misinformation” based on the Community Guidelines. The company asserted they “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.”

TikTok reportedly removed over 102 million videos in the first quarter of 2022. Also, the company says it is using AI-driven tools to identify videos that go against its Community Guidelines. The AI tools can automatically remove the video or send it to a human moderator for review.

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This report by NewsGuard coincided with the Senate invitation to TikTok’s top executives. The company’s operations chief Vanessa Pappas and other executives have to appear at a Senate hearing to discuss how the platform’s measures can affect US national security. TikTok already came under fire for manipulating US users’ data, and such reports can put more pressure on the company.