TikTok Ukraine War Videos Raise Questions About Spread of Misinformation

TikTok and other social media platforms are also under pressure from US legislators and Ukrainian officials to stop Russian misinformation about the war, especially from state-backed media outlets such as Russia Today and Sputnik. In response, YouTube said it would block Russia Today and Sputnik in the European Union, while parents of Twitter and Meta, Facebook, said they would label content from outlets as state-sponsored.

TikTok has also banned Sputnik and Russia Today in the EU, but has not labeled the outlet as state-sponsored in countries where they are still available. The app said Thursday it has devoted more resources to monitoring for misleading content about the war.

“We continue to respond to the war in Ukraine to detect emerging threats and eliminate harmful misinformation,” said Tiktok spokeswoman Hillary McQuaid.

Over the years, TikTok largely escaped constant scrutiny about its content. Unlike Facebook, which has been around since 2004, and YouTube, which was founded in 2005, TikTok has only been widely used in the last five years. Owned by Baitdance of China, the app was designed to make it easy to create and share one to three minute videos. It has developed a reputation as a destination for addict-free, silly and entertaining videos, especially for young users.

The app has been navigating some of the controversies in the past. It faces questions over the harmful fads that arise on its platform, as well as whether it allows underage users and adequately protects their privacy.

But the war in Ukraine has surpassed the issues against TikTok, which has more than a billion users globally.

According to a review by The Times, the amount of war content on the app is much higher than what is seen on some other social networks. The video with the hashtag #Ukrainewar has garnered nearly 500 million views on TikTok, with some of the most popular videos getting close to 1 million likes. In contrast, the hashtag #Ukrainewar had 125,000 posts on Instagram and the most popular videos were viewed thousands of times.

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