LONDON: Video-sharing app TikTok is struggling to stem the flow of misleading information, especially in relation to the war in Ukraine, according to an independent investigation.
The study, led by NewsGuard, found that new TikTok users could be recommended false content about Ukraine within 40 minutes of joining the network.
NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of news and information websites and tracks online misinformation, showed that fake videos, old clips and fake livestreams about the conflict were spreading rapidly on TikTok.
While other social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, have been labeling false or misleading viral videos about the war, TikTok has failed to do so, despite some of the clips amassing millions of views, the investigation found.
Much of the material was found to be outdated videos and fake livestream clips. One post — said to be about the ongoing conflict and which garnered more than 30 million views — actually comprised clips taken from a YouTube video of Ukrainian military training exercises in 2017.
The investigation found that most of the fake livestreams were linked to popular hashtags such as #Ukraine or #UkraineWar.
It said also that computer-generated imagery had been frequently used as a substitute for genuine footage.
In one video with the caption “Ukraine live,” which was viewed 24 million times, a man appears to drop an explosive device onto a tank. But the clip was actually taken from a video of an Airsoft match — a team combat game similar to paintball — and uploaded to YouTube in January.
The spread of misinformation on TikTok is not new. Just a few weeks ago, images and videos showing Israeli attacks on Palestinians were being mislabeled and captioned as Russian attacks on Ukrainians by some social media users.
A blurry video claiming to show a Ukrainian girl confronting a Russian soldier has generated 12.7 million views on TikTok and over 1 million on Twitter. But the footage actually depicts Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, aged 11 at the time, confronting an Israeli soldier after her older brother was arrested in 2012.