I was on a Zoom the other day on some new market research. An interesting stat came over about how many people get their news from TikTok. That struck me as odd. TikTok is a growing social media platform for sharing very short videos. The app is popular with younger people who share their creativity in singing, dancing, comedy, and cute short takes. TikTok is expected to connect 85 million users in 2022, according to Statista.
But there is a dark side. Some have said that the social media site is spyware of the Chinese government. TikTok shares data more than most social media apps — but they are not clear where that data goes. There have been allegations that TikTok’s algorithms push racist content, as well as video content that can cause eating disorders and self-harm.
So who owns this community of videos and swiping? A Chinese company called ByteDance, which also owns the news service Toutiao.
So, what about TikTok and the news? Originally users could only upload 15-second videos, and that became one minute, and then three minutes. Recently, it more than tripled to 10-minute videos. And, while 1 minute makes news impossible, 10 minutes is a good chunk of time. So is news on TikTok, a good thing?
Pew found that up to 71% of Americans get some of their news from social media, including TikTok. But, as it is unedited, non-journalistic for the most part, if the user is leaning politically, then the site will curate the content to cater to that bias. That is common on most platforms, but what the Washington Post recently found is not. TikTok is still up and running in Russia because it censored users there and walled them off from the rest of the world. In other words, it blocked the truth about Ukraine, and only showed videos that adhere to Russian state propaganda. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were all shut down in Russia, but TikTok bowed to political pressure to remain. In fact, it does not operate in China as TikTok, but as a censored platform named Douyin. So, the platform has two propaganda sites, where the truth is not part of the equation. And, if they do that in one market, they can do it in others. Basically, TikTok has proven it cannot be trusted — and as insipid and popcorn its content is, its ability to mask the truth makes it a danger to the news, the facts and our democracy. So, please, don’t get your news from TikTok.