TikTok feature helps spread COVID-19 misinformation, study finds

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Social media influencers, everyday people, and in some cases healthcare workers are now using the platform to share their views via TikTok, but it’s spreading false claims about COVID-19, according to a new study.

From tongue-in-cheek references saying that, for example, pierogies help protect you from the virus to more impassioned claims based on erroneous data, false side effects, and death tolls due to the vaccine — the platform is swimming in vaccine fears.

Think-tank The London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) conducted the study. ISD analyst Ciaran O’Connor said they reviewed 124 uploads. Videos popularizing alarming and debunked stats on the COVID-19 vaccines have over 20 million unique views and over 1.6 million likes.

“You can share the sound and the audio separately. And what’s really crucial to this is that TikTok have shown signs that they are acting against these examples,” said O’Connor. 

That means that while the videos may be taken down, the audio remains shareable as a soundtrack that can be clipped by other users for their videos and furthering the opinions of users that the vaccines are harmful.

At the time of this study, only two of the videos in the study featured a tag from TikTok pointing to resources that provide scientifically backed COVID-19 data.

“We strive to promote an authentic TikTok experience by limiting the spread of misleading content, including audio, and promoting authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines across our app,” TikTok said in a statement to NewsNationNow.com. “Misinformation is an industry-wide challenge, and we are grateful for reports that help us take action on violations.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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