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Mind where you search: 20% of TikTok search results contain misinformation—report

By AYIE LICSI Published Sep 19, 2022 8:00 pm

It looks like TikTok isn't just replacing Instagram and YouTube as the top social media app, it's also becoming the go-to search engine for Gen Z users—which is highly concerning as most searches in the app contain misinformation.

A study by NewsGuard found that nearly 20% of videos that pop up in TikTok's search results include content with misinformation. 540 TikToks were investigated for the research and 105 of them had "false or misleading claims."

This study had the research team typing search terms like "covid vaccine" would show search suggestions like "covid vaccine injury" and "covid vaccine exposed," while looking up "climate change" would suggest "climate change doesn't exist."

On the other hand, when you Google these terms, search suggestions were more straightforward, with recommendations for the "covid vaccine" search showing "walk-in" and "which vaccine is best."

Videos on the platform span different topics from fun ones like cooking, fashion, DIY, and dance trends to more serious ones like COVID-19 vaccines, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, school shootings, and abortion.

The investigation also saw that TikTok's users are predominantly teens and young adults.

Asked about the findings, a TikTok spokesperson said the app's community guidelines "make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform."

The company is said to be partnering with "credible voices to elevate authoritative content" on topics like public health.

In July, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan acknowledged that users are now turning to TikTok instead of Google Search for their online queries.

"In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they're looking for a place to lunch, they don't go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram," he said.