Climate change, politics to Ukraine, TikTok search results rife with misinformation: report

  • TikTok is serving up misinformation to users searching for news about politics, climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and more, according to a report released Wednesday.

| Updated on: Sep 16 2022, 22:57 IST
TikTok, Zoom, WhatsApp: Here are the top 10 downloaded apps globally for May 2020
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1/11 Sensor Tower's latest report for app downloads in May shows that TikTok was the most downloaded non-game app. India contributed 20% of the overall downloads. (SensorTower)
2/11 TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide (non-game) for May 2020 with more than 111.9 million installs, a 2x year-over-year increase from May 2019. The most downloads are still from India.  (Reuters)
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3/11 Zoom was the second most installed non-game app worldwide last month with close to 94.6 million installs, a 43x increase from May 2019. The countries with the largest number of Zoom installs were the US at 17%, followed by India at 17%.  (REUTERS)
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4/11 India remains one of the biggest markets for WhatsApp and once more, the messaging app was one of the most downloaded apps of the month.  (Pixabay)
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5/11 Adding to the list of most-downloaded non-gaming apps, Facebook comes in at 4th place.  (REUTERS)
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6/11 Facebook's Messenger added a host of new features to it, like Messenger Rooms, in an attempt to keep up with video calling apps like Zoom. The Messenger was the 5th most downloaded app of May 2020.  (Facebook)
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7/11 We would have been disappointed if Instagram was not on this list. The photo-sharing app comes in 6th amongst the most downloaded non-game apps for May 2020.  (Pixabay)
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8/11 Much like Messenger, Google Meet upped its repertoire to keep up with other video calling apps. The ever trustworthy Google Meet comes in at the 7th spot.  (Google )
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9/11 India's Covid-19 tracker came in at the 8th spot. The app rode the high of being made mandatory and garnered a massive number of downloads after launch. In May though, the app stood at the 8th spot for the most downloaded app globally.  (AP)
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10/11 So what if the buck's reigned in at 480fps!? YouTube made a place for itself in the top 10 by coming in 9th.   (Bloomberg)
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11/11 The last app on the list of top 10 is Snapchat. While Snapchat wasn't a big name over the lockdown, it remains popular globally.  (REUTERS)
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A report has alleged that TikTok is displaying misinformation to users searching for politics, climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and more. (AP)

TikTok is serving up misinformation to users searching for news about politics, climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and more, according to a report released Wednesday.

Toxicity and false claims are a "significant threat" at TikTok, which is becoming a go-to online venue for young people to search for information, according to a study by NewsGuard, a media watchdog.

NewsGuard describes itself as a "journalism and technology tool" that rates the credibility of websites and online information.

"Even when TikTok's search results yielded little to no misinformation, the results were often more polarizing than Google's," NewsGuard said of its findings.

NewsGuard in September analyzed the top 20 results from 27 TikTok searches on news topics, finding that 19.5 percent of the videos suggested contained false or misleading claims, the report stated.

Researchers said that they compared TikTok and Google results from searches for information about school shootings, abortion, Covid-19, US elections, Russia's war on the Ukraine and other news.

False or misleading claims in results included conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon and supposed home recipes for hydroxychloroquine, a prescription drug used to treat malaria and lupus, according to NewsGuard.

TikTok says the methodology used in the analysis is flawed, and that it makes a priority of fighting misinformation.

"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 in response to an AFP inquiry.

"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 content."

While testifying Wednesday at a Senate hearing on social media's impact on national security, Twitter former senior vice president of engineering Alex Roetter said that the Chinese government is an investor in TikTok parent company Bytedance, and that it has incentives to maximize profit and user engagement.

"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.

Social media companies stand to benefit from attention-grabbing online content despite harmful effects it may have on society, Roetter said in opening remarks.

"Our terms of service and community guidelines are built to help ensure our vision of a safe and authentic experience," TikTok chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas said at the hearing.

"Our policies have zero tolerance for disinformation, violent extremism and hateful behavior."

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First Published Date: 16 Sep, 22:57 IST
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