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Woman didn’t know her TikTok was included in ‘The Social Dilemma’

Chelsea Gilliland says no one from the Netflix doc contacted her.

Oct 9, 2020, 3:21 pm*

Internet Culture

 

Audra Schroeder

Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma attempts to untangle the web of misinformation and manipulation on social media. However, a woman featured in the film as an example of COVID-19 misinformation said she was never notified, and the TikTok was taken out of context.

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As detailed by the Verge, Chelsea Gilliland's TikTok is included in a segment (around the 1:04:00 mark) about COVID-19 misinformation early in the pandemic. It shows several out-of-context clips of people on different platforms theorizing that COVID is a hoax. Though her clip was reportedly longer on TikTok, in the film she's seen saying, "Maybe the government is using the coronavirus as an excuse to get everyone to stay inside because something else is happening."

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Gilliland told the Verge that the now-deleted video, from March 25, was meant to satirize the people pushing conspiracy theories on TikTok, and that in a previous TikTok she had stated her posts are "sarcastic." But the production company behind The Social Dilemma apparently never contacted her, and she found out she was in the doc from her professor—and when strangers started sending her messages. While her TikTok handle in now blurred in the film, it apparently was not when it first aired (and neither were other handles).

Last month, she posted a follow-up to TikTok, explaining how she ended up in the film and saying she's experienced "karma." On Instagram, she elaborated a bit more, saying: "Although I initially posted it as a joke, I realize now the damage that videos can do—especially when taken out of context."

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The Social Dilemma, released in September and directed by Jeff Orlowski, has seen mixed reviews. After its release, plenty of people (on social media) claimed it was a must-see, an indictment of the mass manipulation by Silicon Valley. But there was also criticism for giving a platform to the people who helped created the algorithms that have us so addicted, so they could claim they didn't know what it would lead to. And, as noted, Orlowski's sourcing for the film seems fairly insular.

A "person familiar with the situation" told the Verge that the film's production team saw Gilliland's TikTok as a real expression of misinfo. Gilliland said she's no longer posting conspiracy theory content on TikTok, and that her "main takeaway" from this incident is that people should "be careful" what they post.

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*First Published: Oct 9, 2020, 3:20 pm