Mathieu Nadeau-Vallée, alias the “doctor TikTok”, doctor forced to abandon the platform where he was very popular, does he establish a good diagnosis by fearing that the eviction of professionals leaves too much latitude for untruths? Obviously, he is not the only one to fear that misinformation is gaining importance.
The doctor, who posted capsules on health topics to 87,000 subscribers, was instructed to uninstall the Chinese social network app from his personal phone, like many civil servants, teachers and health professionals in Quebec. The reason: the government is concerned that confidential data will be secretly harvested from the devices where it has been installed. But for the “Doctor TikTok”, these sidelines would leave “the field open to disinformation1”.
Is the existence of fake content on the social network such a big reality? For digital communications strategist and tech columnist Nellie Brière, the worst rubs shoulders with the best, all powered by hard-to-find algorithms.
From his point of view, the professionals and credible figures of the social network are right to worry about this disconnection. “If those with skills, whether civil servants, teachers, scientists or news media, leave the machine, the conspirators and all opinions, even those not based on fact, will remain. It leaves the field open to the unhealthy influence of all kinds of groups or interests, including political or commercial,” warns Ms. Brière, for whom the argument of national security carries too little weight.
“Telling people who don’t have a national secret on their phone not to be on it doesn’t really make sense. The fear mentioned is that data collection is used for targeting and influencing the user, but this collection has already been done, it is too late! TikTok and the other networks already have this story,” she said.
Many areas are affected by the government’s watchword and, even if its activities are not directly targeted, lawyer Chanel Alepin questions its validity. The young woman, who runs the TikTok account of the Alepin Gauthier firm, where general legal information is distilled, with a hint of humor to demystify her profession, reacted Thursday on the platform to the departure of “Doctor TikTok”.
She realizes that many subscribers to her account do not always have the right information about the law in Quebec. “It made me think when I saw that doctor having to quit. I thought to myself, “What would make it wrong for a professional to use Tik-Tok?” I’m no computer expert, but I wonder if all of this is done on a personal phone, on personal time, with personal opinions, is the fear justified? “Explains the lawyer, in an interview with La Presse. She fears that the spokes in the wheels of professionals (including ethical reproaches formulated by certain employers) will divert them from TikTok, when “they belong there”.
Another Quebec doctor, Michelle Houde, who feeds the La MD colored account, said she was ready to continue producing videos.
“I will do everything I can to not stop creating health content and videos on TikTok,” she said in a video posted Wednesday, while clarifying that it would be done “within the law” – she indicates that she has not yet received instructions. Dr. Houde uses the platform to discuss sometimes taboo health topics, such as sexual or mental health, which allows her to reach a wide audience not necessarily connected to traditional media.
“If there aren’t qualified people who bring reliable information to these platforms, other people will take their place. The majority of doctors I know who are on the platform arrived precisely to counter misinformation. If we all leave at the same time, I’m afraid of what it could give, “she pleads.
Can compromise solutions be found to accommodate data security and speech security? Nellie Brière recommends, to use the application, to use a telephone where no confidential information would be present, and to refrain from doing so with any professional telephone provided by an employer. Dr. Michelle Houde is talking about the possibility of investing in a phone only for TikTok. “It’s so important to me,” she said.