It has been found that children as young as nine are watching anti-vaxx TikTok videos. The platform has been building up on lies and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, with many of these videos having amassed millions of views.
Informed the WHO
As per a report by NewsGuard, TikTok hosts a number of accounts that have hundreds of thousands of followers, discouraging them from getting vaccinated and circulating myths about survival rates. The online misinformation monitoring firm has said that it had published its findings in June, and had sent the same to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UK government, but the content was not taken down.
This comes even as people continue to raise concerns about the relative impact social media can have on young users, amid reports that Facebook-owned Instagram is toxic to the mental health of teenagers. Apparently, the photo-sharing platform can aggravate body image issues among teens girls, something that was found during internal research at Facebook.
Using Fake Dates of Birth
During its probe, NewsGuard found that children as young as age nine were accessing anti-vaxx content, even though TikTok allows full access only to people aged 13 and over. Three participants in the study were found to have been able to create accounts on the app by mentioning fake dates of birth.
Following the report, the Chinese social media giant said in a statement to the Guardian that is has worked “diligently” to take corrective action against the accounts and content that implicated in spreading false information.
Some of these videos posted on the platform have amassed over 9 million views. The false information being spread through these videos include incorrect information about the side-effects of specific COVID vaccine brands, as well as misleading comparisons between vaccine efficacy rates and COVID survival rates.
Problematic Algorithms and Lack of Regulation
NewsGuard’s UK Managing Director Alex Cadier has said in a statement that with TikTok failing to curb the spread of health misinformation, the platform has becoming dangerous, adding that the firm’s claims that it is acting against misinformation are not supported by its activity, which is allowing anti-vaccine content to “spread relatively unimpeded.”
What’s even worse, he says, is the fact that the algorithm is such that should kids interact with such content, it will automatically be promoted to their feed. He has called for legislative regulation, like the “online safety bill,” in order to keep young users safe.
Source: The Guardian