TikTok is bombarding our teens with fake news

Tiktok has changed. Just as Facebook has transformed from a social network to the world’s largest news site, TikTok has also transformed from a creative platform to an information portal. In addition to the dance videos, there are now life hacks, fun facts, how-to videos, news stories and hot takes on current affairs.

In Australia, TikTok is openly promoting itself as a learning platform. His latest Australian ad, Now you knowfeatures influencers offering tips on everything from catching spiders to hair care to UFO sightings.


We parents have to ask ourselves: do we trust TikTok to educate our children?

The barking students video is the tip of the iceberg. There is disinformation on TikTok about politics, health, news, celebrities, current affairs and, yes, UFOs. And misinformation is harmful. The student barking video was specifically designed to incite transphobic feelings. Most fake news stories have some sort of agenda, and most are designed to create dissent, incite hatred, or advance the interests of a subset of people.

There is misinformation and propaganda on every social media platform, but TikTok is specifically marketed to young people. The official minimum sign-up age is 13, but users are often much younger.


Young people are incredibly vulnerable to misinformation. They don’t have the benefit of life experience to alert them that something feels wrong. Your ability to critically analyze information can be poor, especially when that information is presented in a fun and accessible way. Expecting kids to pick truth from propaganda, experts from mere influencers, and real news from fake news is too much to expect.

According to a TikTok spokesperson, “Misinformation is an industry-wide challenge that no platform can ignore, and we don’t allow that on TikTok. TikTok is a place for authentic and creative expression, and we’re working hard to ensure all content follows our community guidelines, which are clear that we don’t allow harmful misinformation, and will be removing it from the platform.”

But managing misinformation — and deciding what is and isn’t “harmful” — is a daunting task that no social media platform has yet successfully tackled. TikTok reportedly removed around 1 percent of all uploaded videos in the first quarter of this year, but most of those videos were removed for content violations related to safety, nudity, sexual content, and violence, not misinformation.

Just a tiny fraction of all videos removed worldwide — 0.6 percent — were removed from TikTok for reasons related to “integrity and authenticity,” a category that includes spam and fake engagement, as well as misleading content.

It’s tempting for parents to dismiss TikTok as harmless fun. But we must remain vigilant and committed. A new tide of misinformation is coming, and it’s headed straight for our children.

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Joel McCord

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