TikTok is by far the most popular short-video sharing app in use at the moment. It's popularity and relevancy cannot be understated in today's world.
The app has also helped create some of the internet's biggest celebrities. In July of 2020, the app had seen approximately 689 million monthly active users.
Misinformed on TikTok
In January 2020 TikTok came under fire when users of the platform started posting misinformation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic despite a recent policy change against misinformation. More recently misinformation related to the US Election results was also circulating on the platform.
In April of 2020, the government of India asked TikTok to remove users posting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently banned the app shortly afterwards.
Starting today, in the United States and Canada, any video that TikTok’s content moderators have checked but cannot verify on the spot, will have a banner appended to it; stating that the video may contain unconfirmed information/content. The same will come into action on February 22nd in the United Kingdom.
If a viewer decides to share the video, a further prompt will appear reminding them that the video contains content that couldn’t be verified. The user will then be prompted and asked again if they want to share the unverified content. TikTok hopes that these prompts will be particularly useful in the case of breaking news event.
Gina Hernandez, product manager for TikTok’s trust and safety team had this to say,
“People come to TikTok to be creative, find community, and have fun. Being authentic is valued by our community, and we take the responsibility of helping counter inauthentic, misleading, or false content to heart.”
Why is fake news dangerous?
The spread of misinformation and fake news is dangerous for a number of reasons. Fake news can wreak havoc to many social, economical and political facets of modern society.
Since information has become available on the go, the speed at which information is consumed has rapidly increased. Keeping an eye out for misleading information has become vital.
Yevgeniy Golovchenko, who studies disinformation at the University of Copenhagen stated,
“Labelling of content has been previously used by other tech-firms to combat misinformation and Existing research from other platforms suggests that labels may indeed help curb the spread of misinformation."
However, there is also evidence to support that by labelling some content, a social media platform may potentially make other labelled content appear more reliable or less reliable; which creates an entirely new problem altogether.
So far, the results have shown that the prompts seem to be working. The number of questionable videos received have dropped by 7%, while the combination of the banner questioning the content and the prompt resulted in a 24% decrease in sharing of videos with potentially false content.