“TikTok’s toxicity is now a danger”

“Unfortunately, we are not very surprised…”

Chine Labbé is editor-in-chief of NewsGuard. She details for us the results of the study devoted to the dissemination of “misinformation” on TikTok.

Are you surprised by these results?

The real surprise, first, is to see that for many young people, TikTok serves as a search engine. When we saw that it was used by many young people for something other than broadcasting or watching short funny videos, we wanted to see if it was a good thing to learn about TikTok. Unfortunately, on the results themselves, we are not very surprised… but it allowed us to measure it, to demonstrate it. And to see that using TikTok to get information is probably not the best idea!

Why is such content also visible on TikTok?

False, misleading information is everywhere on the internet. The problem here is that TikTok was not designed as a search engine, and that use is very important. We must therefore improve the algorithm, but we have no information on that: how does this algorithm work? As with all social networks, we have no transparency. Is their algorithm designed to avoid false information? TikTok did not respond to us on this point. And that is the real problem.

Should the media be more present on TikTok?

TikTok is a billion active users in the world, and in France it is 30% of users who are under 18 years old. There are more and more media trying to be there. And they’re right, it’s important to be there to touch them, to know how to talk to them, to convince them and to inspire confidence! But on TikTok, the basic problem is that the application offers no hierarchy, no differentiation of content. Because it’s not designed for that.

Is the false information you have identified being disseminated deliberately?

We do not know ! What is certain, for the young woman of hydroxychloroquine, is that she knows how to get through moderation. For example, we know that on the American election, if you search for “election fraud”, in English, there are no results. But if you add an “e” to “fraud”, which is a mistake in English, there are plenty of them. We see that TikTok does something, but users know how to bypass it and it is quite easy.

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