TikTok Sounds Are The Latest Tool For Spreading COVID Conspiracies

TikTok Sounds Are The Latest Tool For Spreading COVID Conspiracies

An investigation shows TikTok Sounds are being used to spread COVID-19 misinformation, and the platform may not be vigilant enough to stop it.

As TikTok grapples with the rising tide of misinformation shared as short videos, a London-based non-profit has discovered that the platform’s Sound library is also being weaponized for spreading coronavirus-related conspiracies and anti-vaccine agendas. TikTok is no stranger to the problem, as the viral social media platform has been using all sorts of tactics such as reporting, content removal, account suspensions, and pre-sharing prompts to contain the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.

The viral app has even been employed by WHO to educate its predominantly young audience about the pandemic and the steps needed to overcome the global health crisis. Celebrities have joined the awareness bandwagon as well, and content such as dance videos that teach potentially life-saving routines have also become popular on TikTok. But there is no dearth of misleading content either, and the challenge just keeps getting bigger.

Related: Android Users Can Soon Store COVID-19 Vaccination Details On Their Phone

As per an investigation conducted by the British think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue on 124 videos, the problematic Sound in videos promoting COVID-19 disinformation and anti-vaccine discourse is still live on the platform. For folks who are unaware, TikTok maintains a library of popular audio clips called Sounds that users can utilize in their videos. According to ISD’s exhaustive report, the TikTok sound clips were still available publicly for more miscreants to exploit even after the original videos were removed for violating content guidelines.

A Fresh Avenue For Misinformation That TikTok Needs To Inspect

Tiktok Sound Weaponised To Spread Misinformation

The report mentions that the analyzed TikTok videos spreading vaccine misinformation garnered over 20 million views and the sharing frequency stood at over a third of a million. One TikTok Sound, in particular, that promoted vaccine hesitancy was featured in over 4,500 videos that collectively attracted over 16 million views. Worryingly, only one among the Top 25 videos for this Sound had a COVID-19 information label on it. TikTok has been using labels such as ‘Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines’ for all content with words and hashtags related to the COVID-19 vaccine to spread awareness.

Furthermore, a video that allegedly shows a healthcare worker promoting anti-vaccine ideas had accumulated over 3 million views. In another instance, the Top 25 videos using a Sound that endorses vaccine-related misinformation targeting the Black community had no information label at all. Similarly, at least 48 videos pushing vaccine side-effect conspiracies had no information banner either. Another Sound that questions vaccine safety was accessible in the library openly despite the original video’s removal.

However, it is plausible that healthcare workers depicted in the now-removed videos were just posing as one to boost the viewership. Moreover, ISD has not provided a scale of how widespread the problem is, as the investigation batch involved just 124 videos, but the number of clips viewed and shared daily on the platform is in the millions. Ultimately, ISD’s study has managed to unearth a problem that TikTok needs to look into before it spirals into a huge mess and the platform becomes a misinformation hotspot. For a video-first platform like TikTok, it is definitely worrying that Sounds — an integral component of those videos — has a library of its own and it is being weaponized to spread such hazardous content.

Next: TikTok’s Automatic Content Removal Changes: What Creators Need To Know

Source: ISD

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