TikTok Pulled Over 12,500 Videos Promoting Medical Misinformation in Australia

TikTok Pulled Over 12,500 Videos Promoting Medical Misinformation in Australia
Image: FeatureChina, AP

Earlier today, we published an article outlining a transparency report from Meta that detailed its efforts to stop the spread of misinformation on its platforms. Well, TikTok has provided a similar report – one that details the number of videos it has removed from Australia because it deemed them to be ‘medical misinformation’.

According to TikTok, COVID-19 has continued to be a key focus of its efforts to combat misinformation over the past year, including claims around the effectiveness of vaccinations and government restrictions. As part of that focus, the platform had been heavy with its banhammer, pulling a tonne of videos from TikTok because they were deemed ‘Australian medical misinformation’.

In total, from January 2021 through to December 2021, TikTok removed 12,582 videos.

  • January 2021: 24 videos
  • February 2021: 61 videos
  • March 2021: 60 videos
  • April 2021: 12 videos
  • May 2021: 18 videos
  • June 2021: 104 videos
  • July 2021: 319 videos
  • August 2021: 656 videos
  • September 2021: 4,476 videos
  • October 2021: 2,769 videos
  • November 2021: 2,318 videos
  • December 2021: 1,765 videos.

I’m pretty sure that totals 12,582.

NSW entered lockdown on June 25, 2021, with October 11 the date lockdown was considered “over”.  The increase in videos pulled from TikTok are therefore unsurprising, coinciding with speculation on when lockdown would be over, as well as misinformation around vaccination rampant during this time. The growth in medical misinformation removals also trended alongside the arrival of the Delta strain and further advice from state and federal governments.

In total, TikTok labelled 198,721 Australian videos with a COVID-19 notice. 42,792 in August alone. Interestingly, @NSWHealth had 16,323,677 views on its 121 videos posted on TikTok.

In its report, TikTok said it has opted in to all of the code commitments. In February 2021, Google, Microsoft, Tik-Tok, Twitter, Facebook and Redbubble signed onto the Digital Industry Group’s (DIGI) voluntary code of practice, which is aimed at combating the spread of misinformation and disinformation in Australia. Since launch, the code has seen two further signatories in Adobe and Apple.

Under the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, signatories have committed to safeguards to protect against online disinformation and misinformation, including publishing and implementing policies on their approach, and providing a way for their users to report content that may violate those policies. You can read more about the code here.

Part of the commitment to the code is publishing transparency reports on the work done by each company on their respective platforms.

“Although TikTok is only a recent entrant to the Australian market, we have established robust policies and tools to address the spread of misinformation. But we know this work never stops,” TikTok said in its report highlighting medical misinformation.

“We will continue to address misinformation by investing heavily in technology and review teams, introducing in-app features, promoting trusted information from authoritative sources and developing policies to prevent its spread.”

You can read a breakdown of everything TikTok has committed to over here.