TikTok criticized for videos sharing false information about Russia’s war on Ukraine

Despite his attempts to fight misinformationTikTok is still failing to stop the spread of false information about the war in Ukraine, an anti-disinformation organization said on Monday.

TikTok users are seeing videos containing fake war news within minutes of creating new accounts, according to NewsGuard, the organization that published the report.

TikTok’s algorithm fed misinformation to the “For You” pages of new accounts just 40 minutes after those accounts were opened, the report said, whether or not those people performed Ukraine-related searches.

TikTok’s “For You” page is the first thing users see after opening the app. It displays a curated stream of videos that TikTok’s algorithm thinks users will like based on their interests and past interactions. Without any information, TikTok shows new users random popular videos.

NewsGuard also found that after searching for generic terms related to the conflict, such as “Ukraine” or “Donbass”, TikTok displayed several videos containing disinformation in its top 20 results.

NewsGuard notes that the new findings add to “the body of evidence that TikTok’s lack of effective content labeling and moderation, coupled with its ability to drive users to content that keeps them on the app, have made the platform fertile ground for the spread of disinformation.”

In response to NewsGuard’s analysis, a TikTok spokesperson said Fortune“While this experience does not mimic standard viewing behavior, we continue to respond to the war in Ukraine with increased safety and security resources as we work to remove harmful misinformation and help protect a safe experience on TikTok.”

A TikTok war

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has already suspended all live streaming and new content from Russia after a Russian law came into effect that increased the prison term to 15 years for anyone intentionally streaming fake news about the army. It also added digital literacy guidance to its Discover page “to help our community evaluate and make decisions about the content they view online,” the company said in a statement.

But that was not enough to prevent fake videos from appearing on TikTok. Within 45 minutes after NewsGuard analysts began scouring TikTok with new accounts, their feeds would become almost exclusively filled with content related to the war in Ukraine. Although some videos are accurate, no distinction has been made between misinformation and reliable sources.

At a time when false narratives about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are proliferating online, none of the videos passed to our analysts by TikTok’s algorithm contained information on the reliability of the source, warnings, fact checks or additional information that may empower users. with reliable information,” NewsGuard said in a statement.

The videos peddling false information were both pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian. Some of the examples included claims commonly used by the Kremlin to support its “special operation” in Ukraine. This includes bogus claims that images of the war in Ukraine were fake or that the United States had bioweapons labs in Ukraine, a country which Russia says is ruled by a neo-Nazi junta. Other false allegations were directed towards the West, such as the claim that US forces were “en route” to Ukraine, that Putin was photoshopped in footage from a press conference to hide that he was not in Moscow, and footage of a “Ghost of kyiv” shooting down six Russian jets, which was actually from a simulation video game.

Some of the videos, like those accusing Ukraine of being controlled by neo-Nazis, have been viewed nearly 2 million times.

TikTok has been used as a tool by Russia and the West to share information about the war. The video-sharing app has seen a surge in the amount of war-related content, according to the Guardianwith videos tagged #Ukraine receiving, at the end of last week, more than 30 billion views.

It was also reported that pro-Kremlin operatives were paying Russian influencers to post propaganda about “the eight-year genocide” by the Ukrainian people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, for which there is no evidence. reported evidence. To counter this, the Washington Post reported that the White House held a Zoom briefing with 30 TikTok stars briefing them on US motives in Russia, asking them to debunk misinformation and communicate effectively about the crisis on the platform.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

John C. Dent