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Anti-Vaccination Sentiment and Misinformation Circulating on Tik Tok

By Amy Simoes

I chose to focus my analysis of harmful contemporary propaganda on TikTok’s that spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations. The highly popular and fairly new platform known as TikTok, is excelling in the social media world, providing content to and from up to 800 million active users worldwide. I knew I wanted to focus my attention on finding propaganda on the TikTok platform because it is currently new and very popular within society thereby serving as the perfect medium to catch people’s interest and attention. After doing some research about various misinformative concepts within the app I chose to concentrate on the issue of vaccination misinformation that has been circulating the TikTok platform. I utilized an Article from Business Insider India to collect information on the topic and get insight on the negative effects of Tik Toks “point of view” videos “where creators invent fictional scenarios to tell a story.”(Ankel). In terms of the point of view videos that are based on getting the COVID-19 vaccine, users often pretend to suffer from side effects or fake their death. Although these scenarios are fictional and are primarily based on humorous context, they have the potential to invoke fear in other users by portraying the vaccine as a dangerous risk that could lead to all sorts of crazy side effects thereby spreading misinformation about vaccines. The videos have capability of spreading anti vaccine sentiment because they embrace notions from conspiracy theories and contribute to the normalization behind the idea that vaccines are dangerous. The comments on the videos also prove to be a harmful source of influence where many people share anti-vaccination views therefore increasing potential to persuade other users to believe vaccines to be dangerous or develop similar mindsets as them. According to The New York Times, “In July, TikTok classified more than a third of its 49 million daily users in the United States as being 14 years old or younger”(Zhong and Frenkel.). This demographic of younger users are much more likely to be influenced by Tik Tok comments and videos, pertaining to a generation that acquires information primarily through media and possessing naivety to many concepts expressed on the app. In terms of struggles I encountered throughout the process, a difficulty of mine when deciding how to showcase this type of propaganda in my voice recording was choosing between various Tik Toks that were still public on the app (because many get taken down after being reported) and deciding which video would best represent the harmful aspects within the videos. I chose to use a video of a man that was pretending to bark and act very strangely after receiving the Covid vaccine because many of the comments expressed worry based on the scenario and expressed their decision to not get vaccinated when a vaccine does become available. This project allowed me to be creative by allowing me to pick any type of propaganda I wanted thereby giving me freedom to pick propaganda that is relevant in today’s society. Since the COVID-19 vaccine is being created and Tik Tok videos are based around this concept this type of propaganda is especially pertinent to today’s society because it has the ability of potentially influencing people’s decisions to get the vaccination in the future. Overall creating leap 2 has allowed me to observe different contemporary types of propaganda and distinguish between different harmful effects they impose to the public. I have analyzed how something as simple as a trend on Tik Tok can promote negative effects on people’s mindsets and future decisions.

An example of an anti-vaccination Tik Tok that was removed from the platform.

Script:

The topic I chose to focus on when it comes to modern day propaganda that has harmful potential stems from Tik Tok COVID-19 immunization videos.

A modern trend on the prominent app known as Tik Tok is creating a video from a “point of view scenario” and one of the points of view that is commonly reenacted on the app is based on a person’s perspective after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the vaccine hasn’t come out yet, many users pretend it is to create content on the app… and here are a few examples of some tik timers who did so

Many users creating these types of tik toks pretend to have scary side effects after receiving the COVID 19 vaccine (Some are even based on conspiracies such as the insertion of tracking devices through vaccination).Thesis: Although most of these videos are made in a humorous context I believe that they are a form of propaganda that is harmful because they spread misinformation about vaccines and they have capability of spreading anti vaccine sentiment.

Although Tik Tok has removed some of this content many of the videos are still accessible. The particular video that I will be talking about is based off of a Tik Toker that created a post COVID 19 vaccination point of view video that showed him barking like a dog and behaving very differently after receiving the vaccination.

Here is the video i’m describing:

The video received over 700,000 likes and 15,000 comments.

Many comments on the video found it to be funny while many responded with more worried responses like “we’re laughing now but just wait” or “this is why i’m not getting it” or “exactly why no needle is Ever coming near my arm”…..

The reason I believe these types of videos to be harmful especially this one in particular is because it has the ability of scaring people of the possibility of potential side effects after getting vaccinated and promotes many anti vaccination viewpoints in the comments. This increases the propagandas potential to change ones point of view out of invoked emotional responses such as fear. The comments are also influential on users especially those who are younger and not as informed or mature to develop their own opinions on the matter. I also believe these types of videos could be harmful to users unaware of the point of view videos on Tik Tok because some users could potentially interpret them as real thereby increasing the videos capability of spreading misinformation on the platform.

Medical experts also believe this content to be harmful by promoting an accumulative effect that leads to social reinforcement that the COVID vaccination won’t be safe

medical experts also added that it plant seeds of doubt in terms of vaccinations in general in the minds of people witnessing this content

Overall this type of modern day propaganda only aggravates the issue of misinformation on social media and has the potential to cause harm by increasing ideas related to danger in vaccinations. This will only be detrimental in terms of the future COVID vaccine once it does come out, by potentially influencing people’s decision to not get vaccinated thereby decreasing the vaccines actual potential of being effective.

Works Cited

Ankel, Sophia. “TikTokers Are Pretending to Have Horrible Side-Effects from COVID-19 Vaccines. The Posts Are Jokey, but Medical Experts Say They Can Encourage Real Anti-Vaxx Views.” Business Insider, 26 Oct. 2020, www.businessinsider.in/thelife/news/tiktokers-are-pretending-to-have-horrible-side-effects-from-covid-19-vaccines-the-posts-are-jokey-but-medical-experts-say-they-can-encourage-real-anti-vaxx-views-/articleshow/78861401.cms.

O’Connor, Ciaran. “TikTok Allows Anti-Vaxxers to Spread Deadly Myths That Jabs Cause Autism and Cancer and Are Made from Aborted Babies.” The US Sun, The US Sun, 2 Mar. 2020, www.the-sun.com/news/470779/tiktok-allows-anti-vaxxers-to-spread-deadly-myths-that-jabs-cause-autism-and-cancer-and-are-made-from-aborted-babies/.

Zhong, Raymond, and Sheera Frenkel. “A Third of TikTok’s U.S. Users May Be 14 or Under, Raising Safety Questions.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/technology/tiktok-underage-users-ftc.html.

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Students at the University of Rhode Island examine propaganda as a form of social power that may be beneficial or harmful to individuals and society. Critical thinking about propaganda is a crucial responsibility of citizenship in a digital age.

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Amy Simoes

Amy Simoes

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