After becoming a hub for the spread of misinformation regarding the Hamas attack on Israel, TikTok has announced that it “immediately” took action to counter this false information.
After the EU called on TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew to “urgently step up” efforts, and “spell out” within 24 hours how it was complying with European law, reports the BBC.
Digital Battlefield: Social Media’s Impact on Conflict
Social media firms have seen a surge of misinformation about the conflict through content such as falsified images and mislabelled videos.
After concerns cropped up over the harmful doctored content being spread on the platform, TikTok said it had removed “violative content and accounts”.
“We immediately mobilised significant resources and personnel to help maintain the safety of our community and integrity of our platform,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement on Sunday.
EU commissioner Thierry Breton warned TikTok in a letter on Friday that it needed to be mindful of its popularity with young people and “protect children and teenagers from violent content and terrorist propaganda as well as death challenges and potentially life-threatening content”.
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Countering the Misinformation Epidemic
After concerns were raised over the spread of misinformation on TikTok, and the lack of action from the platform to prevent this, the company listed actions it said it had taken on its website to combat false information and hateful content.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, has said it has created a command centre, enhanced its automated detection systems to remove graphic and violent content, and added more moderators who speak Arabic and Hebrew to combat the misinformation.
“We do not tolerate attempts to incite violence or spread hateful ideologies,” TikTok said.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy for content praising violent and hateful organisations and individuals, and those organisations and individuals aren’t allowed on our platform.
“TikTok stands against terrorism. We are shocked and appalled by the horrific acts of terror in Israel last week. We are also deeply saddened by the intensifying humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.”
In August, the EU introduced new laws to regulate the kind of content that is allowed online.
The Digital Services Act (DSA) requires large online platforms (qualified ‘large’ by having over 45 million EU users) to proactively remove “illegal content”, and show they have taken measures to do so if requested.
Though the EU has not specifically stated what it would do in these specific cases, it has explained what was hypothetically possible under the law.
Namely, the DSA allows the EU to conduct interviews and inspections and, if it is unsatisfied, proceed to a formal investigation.
Consequently, if the EU decides that a platform has not complied or is not addressing the problems it has identified, and risks harming users, the commission can take steps including issuing fines and as a last resort request judges to ban a platform from the EU temporarily.
So, as the conflict in Israel and elsewhere continues, TikTok, as well as other social media platforms, will need to buckle down on the harmful spread of misinformation to limit the damage of these digital apps in real-world conflict.