Released in 2016, the app TikTok has become wildly popular, with nearly 1 billion active users per month. What was initially thought to be a Vine replacement is now a platform where people can watch 15- to 60-second videos of just about anything, from the news to a new makeup look.
As of late, it has become more common to see news on TikTok, especially during the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests, when people were posting videos of their experiences, and after Joe Biden’s election, when videos of both celebration and resentment were seen across the app.
In the age of technology, it is pretty common for people to get their news from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and yes, even TikTok. Though, not everyone agrees that social media is a place for news. Some find it unreliable.
“It’s unreliable due to the algorithm made to grasp users’ attention,” said Chris Paige, an undecided sophomore at the University of Maryland.
TikTok’s algorithm works so you only see videos you like. Quickly after you download the app, TikTok sees what videos you like and what videos you scroll right past. They use that data to make your own “For You” page. This means that if you identify as a Democrat you will mostly see news that leans “left,” because the algorithm matches videos with your interests.
TikTok is already home to every kind of news a person can think of, but its algorithm works so people only see videos they like, which can cause issues when it comes to wanting a well-rounded view of the world.
Ten years ago, it probably seemed impossible to think that people would get their news from a 280-character tweet, but now it is normal, and somewhat accepted, for someone to say they get their news from Twitter. The world of news is expanding and if Twitter can be a part of this expansion then maybe TikTok can too.
Despite any backlash about TikTok news’ reliability, news organizations have still taken to the app. Most notably, The Washington Post TikTok account, @washingtonpost, run by Dave Jorgenson, has over 800,000 followers and is known for taking the news and turning it into something funny.
Other journalists have also taken to TikTok, but have decided to do it their way. Lisa Remillard, journalist and host of TV show Carlos and Lisa, joined TikTok a little over a year ago and has used her platform to fit as much news as possible in 60-second clips, with little room for jokes. Despite this, she too has amassed over 800,000 followers and often receives comments such as: “I swear you truly know how to explain things so well. I appreciate you 🥰 🥰 🥰,” said TikTok user @evestyle823.
Regular TikTok users share the news on the app too. One account, @genzforchange, formally known as TikTok for Biden, shares news about social justice, protests, presidential elections and more. Right now, they are focusing their attention on Black History Month, sharing stories of extraordinary Black people in several videos.
“Beyond its primary and external-facing mission of providing news and information, news operations, like many other businesses, spend a lot of time looking for new audiences and so-called distribution channels. So TikTok is certainly being considered… I think a 60-second news update and a short clip of a news event, starting with a news-gathering operations flag or logo, might be a good start of TikTok,” said Joseph Weber, journalist, communications strategist and professor at the University of Maryland.
“I think TikTok is useful with providing information and news, especially for those who don’t look at the news to stay updated. However, it is also extremely biased and not fact-checked, since anyone can post whatever they want,” said Maria Mao, a sophomore computer science major at the University of Maryland.
TikTok becoming the next big news source is a slightly controversial topic, with many people agreeing that it is just too biased right now, but it may be an inevitable result. If you are getting news from TikTok, remember to fact check and don’t always believe what you hear online.