Docs on TikTok Fight Misinformation and Harassment

11 months ago 29

June 29, 2021 -- When epidemiologist Katrine Wallace first downloaded TikTok last summer, she thought it would be a fun escape from work. But as she scrolled through the app’s comedic bits and dance trends, she also discovered COVID-19 misinformation. To counter it, she started making her own videos.

The second video she ever posted, which explained how doctors recorded deaths from COVID-19, received over 87,000 views. “There was a real thirst for information -- real information that was evidence-based about the pandemic,” she says. Nearly one year later, she has amassed over 124,500 followers and over 2.5 million likes on the app.

Wallace is one of many scientists and doctors who use TikTok to teach people about health and medicine. In videos up to 60 seconds long, they debunk COVID-19 myths and answer questions, from how to prevent smelly armpits to what medications can make birth control less effective. In some videos, a doctor simply speaks directly to a phone camera, but in others, they perform short skits or dances while text with medical facts appears on screen.

TikTok, a short-form video app, has skyrocketed to fame in the past few years. The app has been downloaded 2.9 billion times globally, according to SensorTower, and its average monthly users grew 61% in 2020, compared to the previous year. The platform tends to attract a younger audience; in a 2021 survey in the U.S. by the Pew Research Center, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds said they used the app, while 22% of adults ages 30 to 49 reported using the platform.

TikTok provides a different way to teach than t...

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