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IUB researcher talks misinformation on TikTok

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — TikTok announced new policies for political accounts after a report found a lot of misinformation on the social media site. As the world’s most downloaded app, the amount of misinformation circulating on the platform is especially troubling researchers at NewsGuard.

NewsGaurd rates the credibility of news and information websites and tracks online misinformation. It published a report last week showing nearly 20% of videos in TikTok’s search engine contain some form of misinformation.

When looking for information about major news topics like abortion and Russia’s war in Ukraine on Tiktok, they found misleading videos mixed with more accurate clips. Researchers also found that TikTok’s search tool seems designed to steer users to false claims in some cases.

According to NewsGuard’s TikTok, “Repeatedly delivered videos containing false claims in the first 20 results, often within the first five.”

News 8 spoke with Kaicheng Yang, doctoral research candidate for Indiana University at Bloomington’s Observatory On Social Media, on the issue of misinformation and the complexities of fact-checking on Tiktok.

“TikTok is different. It is just videos from who knows?” Yang said. He says it’s hard for users of the app to pin the information in the video to an exact source. “You don’t know where the information comes from, and it is easy to fool or misguide people,” he added.

According to TikTok, its community guidelines make clear that it does not allow harmful misinformation, and it works with independent fact-checkers to assess the accuracy of its content. The platform also announced that it now requires “mandatory verification” for political accounts based in the US, and will prohibit all political fundraising.

Researchers at IUB’s OSOME are now developing a system to collect data about misleading social media content related to the 2022 Mid-term election, and plan to provide an analysis to help news consumers detect misinformation.

“It is important to understand TikTok. It is new, and in our experience, it is hard to get data from TikTok. To us, it is like a black box. We don’t know what is going on, but people are using it and trying to find different ways to understand it,” Yang said.