Researchers at NewsGuard, a journalism and technology tool that tracks online information, searched TikTok and Google this month for information on major news stories such as the 2020 presidential election, the Russia-Ukraine war and abortion to compare the misinformation provided by their search engines.
TikTok, whose users are mostly teenagers and young adults, “repeatedly delivered videos with false claims in the top 20 results, often in the top five,” the report said. “Google, by comparison, provided higher quality, less polarizing results with far less misinformation.”
A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the report when contacted by CNN.
Researchers searched for terms such as “mRNA vaccine” and “2022 election,” as well as controversial news items such as “Uvalde tx conspiracy.” They analyzed 540 TikTok results and found that 105 videos, or 19.4 percent, contained false or misleading claims, the report said.
According to the report, searches for information about politics on TikTok, including the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021 US Capitol riot, often resulted in misinformation and references to QAnon conspiracy theories. For example, “Was the 2020 election stolen?” question search NewsGuard reported six videos with false claims in the top 20 results.
NewsGuard researchers also found that TikTok’s search engine “continually feeds millions of young users health misinformation, including some claims that may be dangerous to users’ health.” For example, a search for “does marijuana cause abortion” yields more than a dozen results favoring unproven herbal abortion methods.
TikTok recently began removing abortion-related videos that violate the doctor’s anti-misinformation policy, including those that share potentially dangerous advice about how to self-induce an abortion.
In response to the NewsGuard report, a TikTok spokesperson told CNN that its community guidelines “make it clear that we do not tolerate harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform. We partner with credible voices to promote authoritative content. Issues related to public health, and the accuracy of content.” cooperate with independent fact-checkers who help us evaluate.
TikTok is exploring ties with China
The NewsGuard report was released amid bipartisan concerns in Washington about the possibility that US user data could find its way to the Chinese government and be used to undermine US interests under a national security law in that country that compels companies based there to cooperate with data requests. .
US officials have expressed fears that China could use Americans’ personal information to identify useful agents or intelligence targets, or to inform future disinformation or disinformation campaigns.
TikTok CEO Vanessa Pappas testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday that she did not commit to ending the flow of US user data to China, and instead promised that the outcome of her negotiations with the US government would “satisfy all national security concerns.” ”
TikTok does not operate in China, Pappas said, although it has an office in China. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, whose founder is Chinese and has offices in China.
“I was surprised that TikTok is so much worse than Google and worse, as a platform, than Facebook or Twitter when it comes to these things,” NewsGuard founder Steven Brill told CNN.
Brill said the report’s findings are particularly troubling because of the company’s ties to China and how easily children can access the app’s content.
“We should take this as a warning. If I had kids the age of TikTok, I’d want to know what they’re using as a search engine,” Brill said. “I’d be quite upset if they relied too much on Google and came up with reports based on what they were reading on Wikipedia at school. But this is taking it so many levels further.”