Do the Chinese use TikTok search results to divide and confuse the youth of America?
A report by researchers at NewsGuard (via the AP) says that you might head to the TikTok app to enjoy the hilarious videos, the lip syncs, or the dancing clips. But when it comes to seeking out legitimate knowledge from videos recommended by the app's search platform, you can expect to be misled by close to 20% of the videos recommended.
As an example, the researchers turn to the results received when they searched for the drug "hydroxychloroquine" on the app. This is a serious drug that is used for lupus, malaria, and rheumatoid arthritis. While it is supposed to be produced in a controlled laboratory setting only, four out of the first 20 search results are for videos that claim to show you how to mix up a batch of "hydroxychloroquine" from scratch in your home.
19.4% of videos turning up in a TikTok search request contain false and misleading information says a new report
The drug is deadly if not taken as prescribed, and yet 20% of the first 20 search results for the drug are for those looking to brew up their own version of the drug. And despite claims made by some, "hydroxychloroquine" does not cure COVID. One particular DIY video shows a woman in a kitchen who says, "About three, four days ago I made ‘the cure’ … to what’s going around. It’s actually called hydroxychloroquine. It’s made out of grapefruit peel and lemon peel and it’s slow simmered and...hydroxychloroquine, quinine, can heal anything."
Screenshot from a video found on TikTok search that recommends the potentially deadly self production of hydroxychloroquine
While the word COVID is not specifically mentioned in the clip, it is apparent what she means when she says that her homemade concoction "can heal anything." The thing to remember here is that TikTok users are usually teens and young adults, perfect demographics for those who get their jollies by misleading the public whether for profit, politics, or pleasure.
NewsGuard says that out of 540 TikTok search results they researched, 105 videos contained false or misleading claims. That means that 19.4% of the videos recommended for viewing on TikTok following a search request featured content that was false or misleading. Granted, some of the topics searched for are controversial but some topics, such as "January 6 FBI" and "Uvalde, Texas conspiracy," were suggested by TikTok itself.
50% of the videos TikTok returned when searching for mRNA vaccines contain false and misleading statements
For example, when searching for "climate change," TikTok recommends that users search for "climate change debunked" and "climate change doesn’t exist." As you might imagine, searching on TikTok for "Was the 2020 election stolen?" returns a large list of baseless lies and misinformation including one video that provides comments saying that the "2020 election was overturned. President Trump should get the next two years and he should also be able to run for the next four years. Since he won the election, he deserves it."
Two of the first 20 videos showing up in TikTok's search of that category come with an admission that "they" (who "they" is isn't identified in the video) admitted to fixing the election in 2020. Six of the first 20 videos that pop up when you ask TikTok's search engine if the 2020 election was fake contain false and misleading claims. Google, on the other hand, shows videos that debunk the false narrative that the election was stolen. None of the first 20 videos that come up on Google in this category contain false and misleading information.
Counting on videos searched for on TikTok to give you the truth on certain topics might not kill you unless the topic you are searching for is about your health. Five out of the first 10 videos returned when searching for mRNA vaccine on TikTok, contained false and misleading information. That is a 50% rate. And if you follow bad information in this category, you could end up dead.
Vaccines that use this type of technology include the Moderna and Pfizer Coivid shots. A person seriously not sure whether they need to take the vaccine might get misleading info resulting in a deadly decision.
Other topics ripe with misinformation on TikTok search include searching for a way to perform a DIY abortion. Such results recommended drinking mugwort tea and taking large amounts of vitamin C; neither method is safe or effective.
NewsGuard founder Steve Brill says, when it comes to TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance, "It’s either incompetence or it’s something worse." The fear is that the Chinese are pushing videos with nonsensical comments in order to raise confusion in the U.S. and other democracies. TikTok continues to be one of the most popular apps in the U.S.
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