Politics

TikTok adds authenticity feature that mirrors BeReal





TikTok on Thursday added an authenticity feature that has been a winner for French app BeReal, taking a page from Meta’s playbook by copying a rival.

The social media giant described its TikTok Now feature as “a daily photo and video experience to share your most authentic moments” using a smartphone’s front and rear cameras simultaneously.

“You’ll receive a daily prompt to capture a 10-second video or a static photo to easily share what you’re up to,” TikTok said in a post.

TikTok said the Now feature was available on the app in the United States and will be rolled out worldwide in coming weeks.

People have been flocking to BeReal, a new social network app that calls on users to share true glimpses of their lives rather than cherry-picked moments.

Once a day, BeReal prompts users to take photos of what they are doing, giving them two minutes to post. 

The app uses front and rear facing cameras on phones, putting “selfies” into context.

The approach is a sharp contrast to the carefully curated images common on Instagram and Facebook.

“The ideal of BeReal is you are just in a moment — where are you and what are you doing right now,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies in the United States.

“Our lived lives, not our best lives — maybe you are walking the dog or in your pajamas eating cereal.”

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Launched two years ago by French entrepreneurs, BeReal has seen its popularity surge in recent months.

BeReal’s rise signals that people are tired of polished online images that don’t reflect actual life, Creative Strategies tech analyst Carolina Milanesi told AFP.

Stromer-Galley, however, questioned whether the authenticity factor alone would be enough to keep people loyal to BeReal, as other social networks vie for their attention.

Instagram told AFP it has worked internally on a BeReal-like prototype feature but is not testing it.

Instagram-parent Meta has a history of copying features such as ephemeral photos and live streaming video that proved hits with users of rival apps, bolstering the appeal of its platform while fending off competition.

TikTok search results rife with misinformation

TikTok is serving up misinformation to users searching for news about politics, climate change, Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and more, according to a report released Wednesday.

Toxicity and false claims are a “significant threat” at TikTok, which is becoming a go-to online venue for young people to search for information, according to a study by NewsGuard, a media watchdog.

NewsGuard describes itself as a “journalism and technology tool” that rates the credibility of websites and online information.

“Even when TikTok’s search results yielded little to no misinformation, the results were often more polarizing than Google’s,” NewsGuard said of its findings.

NewsGuard in September analyzed the top 20 results from 27 TikTok searches on news topics, finding that 19.5 percent of the videos suggested contained false or misleading claims, the report stated.

Researchers said that they compared TikTok and Google results from searches for information about school shootings, abortion, Covid-19, US elections, Russia’s war on the Ukraine and other news.

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False or misleading claims in results included conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon and supposed home recipes for hydroxychloroquine, a prescription drug used to treat malaria and lupus, according to NewsGuard.

TikTok says the methodology used in the analysis is flawed, and that it makes a priority of fighting misinformation.

“Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not allow harmful misinformation, including medical misinformation, and we will remove it from the platform,” a TikTok spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“We partner with credible voices to elevate authoritative content on topics related to public health, and partner with independent fact-checkers who help us to assess the accuracy of content.”

While testifying Wednesday at a Senate hearing on social media’s impact on national security, Twitter former senior vice president of engineering Alex Roetter said that the Chinese government is an investor in TikTok parent company Bytedance, and that it has incentives to maximize profit and user engagement.

“The TikTok algorithm pushes educational science, engineering, and math content on Chinese youth while pushing a feed containing twerking videos, misinformation, and other destructive content to US children,” Roetter told Senators.

Social media companies stand to benefit from attention-grabbing online content despite harmful effects it may have on society, Roetter said in opening remarks.

“Our terms of service and community guidelines are built to help ensure our vision of a safe and authentic experience,” TikTok chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas said at the hearing.

“Our policies have zero tolerance for disinformation, violent extremism and hateful behavior.”

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