TikTok and COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation: New Avenues for Misinformation Spread, Popular Infodemic Topics, and Dangerous Logical Fallacies
TikTok’s microvideo format, audio virality, and algorithmic focus present fundamental shifts and understudied challenges to health communication. This health misinformation study first takes a step toward filling this gap and extends common approaches to TikTok research that rely on a single hashtag. To identify the realistically slippery nature of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, this study employs algorithm training and snowball sampling across misinformation trails of adjacent hashtags, coded language, audio memes, and user accounts to collect a data set of 100 microvideos across many misinformation-related hashtags. Then, thematic analysis illuminates the dominance of novel misinformation spread through viral music and sounds and other platform features, as well as persistent vaccine misinformation topics, such as side effects, harm to children, and experimental vaccine contents. Finally, rhetorical analysis identifies misleading misinformation arguments, including appeals to the populace and emotion, nirvana, slippery slopes, and false-cause logical fallacies.