TikTok’s Algorithm Is Speeding Up the Spread of Covid-19 Vaccine Lies

Home Technology TikTok’s Algorithm Is Speeding Up the Spread of Covid-19 Vaccine Lies
TikTok’s Algorithm Is Speeding Up the Spread of Covid-19 Vaccine Lies
Image for article titled TikTok's Algorithm Is Speeding Up the Spread of Covid-19 Vaccine Lies
Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / Contributor (Getty Images)

TikTok—long known as an incubator for viral dance trends and memes—is reportedly gaining a reputation as a breeding ground for a far more insidious type of viral content: the spread of hoaxes and misinformation, specifically those pertaining to the Covid-19 vaccines.

Advertisement

On Wednesday, Media Matters published new research findings that suggest that, despite community guidelines that specifically prohibit the spread of health misinformation, TikTok’s algorithm frequently amplifies lies about COVID-19 and vaccines to the platform’s 1 billion-strong user base.

During the course of its research into Covid-19 misinformation on the platform, Media Matters engaged with anti-vaccination and COVID-19 misinformation by watching relevant videos all the way through and liking them. Sure enough, the positive engagement had the effect of filling the account’s “For You Page”—TikTok’s landing page for algorithmically recommended content—with videos that almost exclusively featured anti-vaccination and COVID-19 hoax content.

In its report, Media Matters also kept tabs on 18 specific vaccine misinformation videos and found that at the conclusion of its research, those videos had garnered a combined total of more than 57 million total views. The tracked content reportedly included a video that told viewers that “your children and elderly that are not vaccinated will be removed permanently from your home,” (3.9 million views) and a video promoting a hoax about “vaccine bandits” who will “walk up to you on the street and they ask if you’re vaccinated and if you hesitate at all, they inject you with a vaccine right on the spot,” (6.3 million views).