South Asia and Beyond

‘TikTok Spreads Disinformation About Ukraine War’

TikTok, a video app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is feeding false and misleading content about the war in Ukraine to users within 40 minutes of their signing up to the app, regardless of whether they run any searches on the platform, an investigation by journalism watchdog NewsGuard claims. If users looked up words such as “Ukraine” or “Donbas,” TikTok suggested multiple videos that contained disinformation in its top 20 results. Six NewsGuard analysts created new accounts on TikTok. Analysts were instructed to scroll through TikTok’s personalised “For You” feed for 45 minutes, watching videos related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict in full, but not following any accounts or running any searches. Within 40 minutes of joining TikTok, the analysts were shown false content about the war. Among these claims were both pro-Russian and pro-Ukraine falsehoods. Toward the end of the 45–minute experiment, analysts’ feeds were almost exclusively populated with accurate and false content related to the war in Ukraine. No distinction was made between disinformation and reliable sources.

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