Viewpoint: Regulating TikTok would help medical information — a ban would not

TikTok can be a powerful platform for sharing medical information, and legislators should consider a national approach to preventing privacy issues rather than banning the app, Jason Bae, MD, an urgent care physician in Palo Alto, Calif., wrote in an April 8 opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Dr. Bae started the @YourDoctorFriends account on TikTok with a medical school classmate two years ago. They focused on answering common patient questions with a goal of preventing confusion from websites such as WebMD and needless physician visits for minor conditions.

"TikTok quickly became our platform of choice," Dr. Bae said. "The video format enabled us to talk to people as we often do to our patients, rather than condense complex information into texts or pictures. On TikTok, we felt we could be our authentic selves rather than idealized versions while having the most impact."

Recently, federal legislators have proposed a ban on TikTok due to data privacy issues. Although Dr. Bae said there is "substantial value" in TikTok, he noted that "alongside entertaining or informative content, TikTok has been shown to push harmful mental health information to children" and medical misinformation abounds. 

Dr. Bae argued that the privacy issues on TikTok are not unique, and instead of banning a single platform, a broad approach should be taken to prevent all large platforms from violating privacy.

"Furthermore, we need a federal approach to curbing misinformation and negative mental health impacts on all social media platforms," he wrote. "We can follow the example of the EU's Digital Services Act, which requires companies to restrict illicit content."

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