The Brief: TikTok has partnered with the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of misinformation about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) with facts and safety measures.


WHO TikTok Coronavirus Partnership

TikTok is countering the spread of harmful conspiracy theories and incorrect information by highlighting accurate, updated, and helpful facts and resources about the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As cases of the Coronavirus spread worldwide, TikTok has partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat the spread of fake news about the virus with facts and information about the outbreak. When users type the hashtag #Coronavirus into TikTok, they’re met with a banner linking them to information about the virus and video from the WHO as well as other verified news organizations, health officials, and nonprofits.

@whoWe are joining @tiktok to provide you with reliable and timely public health advice! Our first post: How to protect yourself from ##coronavirus ?♬ original sound – who

@whoWhen & how should masks be worn in order to protect against the new ##coronavirus ?♬ original sound – who

The app’s partnership with the WHO took place after there were reported instances of false and misleading videos being posted to TikTok and even going viral. These include racist and xenophobic messages blaming Chinese and Asian people for the virus because it originated in Wuhan, China. A video posted in January by a teenager in Canada falsely claiming that his friend had been infected with Coronavirus gathered over 4.1 million views, 817,000 likes before it was deleted by TikTok, according to The Daily Beast. Videos of people posing as doctors and sharing bogus information about the virus as well as dozens of conspiracy theories about COVID-19 were deleted from the app while others still remain.

Fake News Persists

At the time of writing, videos associated with the hashtag #Coronavirus have been viewed over 2.3 billion times on TikTok. While TikTok highlights fact-based videos from reputable sources on the platform by showing them first, one can find videos that are misleading or clearly contain false information by searching further.

This video shows someone sharing how she tricked her Instagram followers into thinking she was infected with the virus. She also suggests that COVID-19 is “man made.”

@lorch33333The last one nearly made me cry😖. Personallyyyyyy, i think the virus is man made. ##fyp ##xyzbca ##foryoupage ##foryou ##coronavirus♬ Coronavirus Check – 7eer

Even memes and videos that are clearly jokes can perpetuate the spread of misinformation and misguided fear, such as this video joking that spraying infected individuals with Lysol will “cure” Coronavirus.

@justacrelloPretty sure I just saved the world😁 ##fyp ##blowthisup ##coronavirus♬ original sound – justacrello

It’s unclear to what degree this video is seriously perpetuating this conspiracy theory, but either way, it contributes to an environment of confusion and mistrust of official resources about COVID-19.

@elmladif this doesn’t blow up tik tok is broken ##fyp ##foryou ##showerthoughts ##coronavirus ##conspiracytheory♬ sleepwalk – 緒に

This video promotes the debunked and racist idea that certain foods eaten in China are what caused Coronavirus and this one spreads several false conspiracy theories about COVID-19.

Issues with unverified and false information about COVID-19 spreading are not unique to TikTok. Platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all made efforts to amplify correct information while limiting fake news. Even with measures in place, stopping potentially dangerous information from misinforming the public on social media is no small task.