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TikTok says it will strengthen policies in effort to prevent spread of hoaxes and dangerous challenges

By Jennifer Korn, CNN Business

TikTok announced Tuesday that it will strengthen efforts to regulate dangerous content, including harmful hoaxes and content that promotes eating disorders and hateful ideologies. The platform plans to use creators to spread awareness of negative hoaxes, broaden the scope of banned eating disorder content and add clarity on prohibited speech and behaviors.

The move comes after a viral hoax originating on the platform caused very real fear last year. In December, a TikTok trend warned of forthcoming real-world violence in schools. While the threats were vague, they resulted in school shutdowns across the United States.

Hoaxes about public figures’ deaths have gone viral on the platform, as well as false rumors that there were men planning a “National Rape Day.” Representatives from TikTok, Snap and Youtube were all questioned at a congressional hearing on online safety for children last October, leading to a flurry of safety updates.

“Our policies are designed to foster an experience that prioritizes safety, inclusion, and authenticity,” said Corman Keenan, head of trust and safety at TikTok, in a press release announcing the new policy. “They take into account emerging trends or threats observed across the internet and on our platform.”

As part of updates, TikTok announced a new “dangerous acts and challenges” policy category after previously lumping such content in with suicide and self-harm. As part of its efforts, the platform says it will ask creators to create videos asking their followers to follow specific steps when viewing content: stop, think, decide and act. This campaign is meant to inspire young users to pause on challenge videos, consider if the content is harmful, make a decision and then report any deemed dangerous. The platform is also asking creators to spread the #SaferTogether hashtag to promote awareness of risky content.

Beyond its reclassification, the company did not provide specific information on how its approach to hoax moderation will change given the new guidelines.

Another update includes a broadened approach to moderation of disordered eating content. In the statement, Keenan also reiterated the standing ban of videos featuring deadnaming, misgendering, misogyny and conversion therapy.

“Our moderation teams work very diligently to swiftly and expeditiously remove that violative content and redirect hashtags when someone might be searching for it in our search page. For example, if you search for something that we’ve determined is a dangerous challenge, you won’t find content around that,” said TikTok head of US safety Eric Han in a conversation on internet safety hosted by Axios on Tuesday. Han stressed that users need to be aware of the risk of viral trends and online hoaxes, urging TikTokers to approach videos seen online with a questioning eye.

These efforts are part of TikTok’s larger approach to content moderation, which includes a combination of technology and people to review videos and enforce community guidelines. The news of the updated safety guidelines comes as the platform says it will invest in new ways to rank the age-appropriateness of content on the platform.

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