TikTok is more than tripling its maximum video length in the midst of an international misinformation crisis. The timing for TikTok’s new rollout appears ill-conceived given the platform’s ongoing struggles with controlling the spread of misinformation, including about Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
Today TikTok expanded its maximum video length from three minutes to 10 minutes. Although the longer video feature could be used to provide additional context about a video topic, given a lack of other consistent checks on the spread of misinformation on the platform, as well as the company’s history, extending allowed video lengths alone seems unlikely to resolve the threat.
For example, one month after TikTok expanded its maximum video length from 60 seconds to three minutes in July 2021 — in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — Media Matters published a report showing that the company’s algorithm was actively promoting COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation to its users. Although users could have used the extended length to debunk harmful claims, we saw far more evidence of users taking advantage to spread longer, more complicated medical misinformation.
Reporters have repeatedly highlighted the flood of online misinformation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and TikTok has been found to be facilitating the spread. Yet TikTok has once again prioritized content engagement and growth above the needs of its own users, enabling the spread of inaccurate information and dangerous lies.
At a time when the world needs clarity, TikTok’s decision to drastically expand video lengths risks adding to the confusion.