The report, released by rating company NewsGuard, raises questions not only about how effective TikTok is implementing its medical misinformation policy, but also about how its recommendation algorithms challenge these principles.

Research experiment, 32 films in 45 minutes

In the report, NewsGuard researchers describe the findings An experiment they ran in August and September asked nine kids between the ages of 9 and 17 to create brand-new TikTok accounts and save their experiences in the app in 45 minutes.

During this time – and under parental supervision – eight of the nine children Misleading information about COVID-19 has been shown. It was real Even in the case of four children, they were told not to track any accounts or interact with the videos they watched.

In total, for the children participating in the experiment 32 Movies of Disinformation about COVID-19 Played During Those 45 Minutes, including videos suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines are killing people and that COVID-19 is in fact an “international plan to limit and reduce population”.

The report said one teen participating in the experiment, who was instructed to share widely with health-related content on TikTok, had “almost exclusively displayed false information” within 30 minutes.

“What surprised me was the speed,” said Alex Kadier, managing director of NewsGuard UK, who co-wrote the report. – With limited commitment, eight minutes later, I started seeing conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19.

TikTok: Safety is the top priority

In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson said: “The safety and well-being of our community is our top priority and we are working hard to take action on content and accounts that spread misinformation, while promoting trusted COVID-19 content and educating users on how to use the media.”

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The NewsGuard trial builds on other similar investigations, including one by The Wall Street Journal, which recently used 100 bot accounts to analyze how the TikTok recommendation algorithm uses “hidden clues” to steer users toward increasingly specialized content including videos that glorify eating disorders. and depression.

While TikTok may have safeguards against redirecting active searches for misinformation about COVID-19, the report’s findings suggest that Its highly sensitive recommendations algorithm can actively push these videos anyway.

TikTok Community Guidelines prohibit posting misleading information about COVID-19 and vaccines, The company says it’s redirecting related searches to its community guidelines. But Kadier said many of the videos featured in the trial were unclassified, and those who carried them directed users to the websites of national health authorities, rather than dealing with the content of the videos themselves.

Children of several years old log in to TikTok

a report He also questions TikTok’s defense against event logs. The platform bans anyone under the age of 13 from creating an account, and TikTok removed 7 million suspicious accounts under the legal age this year. The company also has a version of its platform, with more security, for users 13 or younger.

But children under the age of 13 can easily sign up for TikTok by providing a fake birth date. This isn’t a TikTok problem, but given the platform’s popularity among young people and its nascent content moderation process, it’s one that NewsGuard researchers say is particularly worrying.

“It’s annoying,” Kadir said. “But with TikTok, it is exacerbated by the fact that once you go through the safety of determining the date of birth, you feel that the information has not been tested much.

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TikTok is a platform for short videos recorded using mobile devices. It has global offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Poland, Israel, Dubai, Mumbai, Nordic Countries, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul and Tokyo.

Analysts estimate that TikTok has nearly 3 billion users worldwide.