TikTok, the viral video-based social media platform, has announced a 'misinformation research grant' of Rs 35 lakh. The Bytedance-backed social media platform has stated that it is now looking for credible partners to submit their applications to look into the spread of misinformation on social media in India. However, it is important to note that the grant is not solely directed at establishing a new third party or in-house fact checking unit, and is instead being undertaken as a research project — similar to how WhatsApp partnered with Proto for understanding the issue of misinformation more closely.
Announcing the initiative, TikTok's official post reads, "The objective of this effort is to better understand the misinformation ecosystem on social media. This includes, detailed understanding for the industry as a whole, how to further improve detection of such content, how it spreads, the motivations that drive creation, and also how to design, measure and conduct effective interventions to limit the negative impact of misinformation."
Misinformation has been a significant problem, causing the Indian government to issue a directive to all social media intermediaries to voluntarily hold themselves more accountable for the information shared on their platforms. On this note, all involved social media parties have been involved in taking steps in different forms. TikTok's prime rivals, the Facebook Group, has set up automated helplines on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which are designed to offer users an official information channel to get Covid-19 information.
TikTok, on that note, has already partnered with a third party fact checking service, and is rolling out a new feature to all its users in India in the coming days. The feature will offer a simple interface using which users can directly report 'Covid-19 misinformation' on the platform. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the feature will include both in-person curation and automated tools to identify problematic pieces of content, and take them down accordingly.