According to the study, 44 per cent of TikTok users rely on the people they follow for news, while 32 per cent use their friends and family on the platform and only 24 per cent follow legitimate news organisations, like Sky News or BBC for news on the app, as reported by The Guardian.
Traditionally, TikTok has been mostly for entertainment. Who doesn’t love to mindlessly scroll through videos of dogs, silly dance routines and humorous sketches before bed (although that’s probably really bad for you)?
Since Russia’s invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine, TikTok has also become a news source for many. In the US, White House briefed 30 TikTokers on the war so they could relay it to their followers.
Since it became widely used, social media has always played a big part in our news cycle. Sure, it gets people more involved and keeps them more informed, but social media is also known as a vessel for false information. That’s precisely why we should be very careful about TikTok as a news source, or more appropriately, we should increase our media literacy when it comes to TikTok.
“Teenagers today are increasingly unlikely to pick up a newspaper or tune into TV News, instead preferring to keep up-to-date by scrolling through their social feeds,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research.
However, it can very quickly become a medley of opinions and gossip on TikTok rather than facts. There is plenty of great, insightful and valuable educational content on TikTok that ranges from sexuality, mental health and human rights.
This is all objectively great, but reputed news organisations endeavour to report as factually as possible, but on TikTok, when the facts travel through many users who are making videos that vary between seconds and a few minutes at most, it gets tricky. There are also no guarantees that any footage is real and what it seems to be, with digital manipulation easier than ever.
According to the Ofcom study, teenagers still use Instagram more and often turn to the popular app for their news, further suggesting that young people get their news online through social media rather than through reliable news sources.
TikTok also became a popular platform for all things Johnny Depp/Amber Heard and many believe the app had a huge impact on the trial. A new documentary focusing solely on the trial and TikTok’s influence on it is currently in the works.
TikTok, like most social media platforms, uses hashtags to group videos together and videos using the #justiceforjohnnydepp hashtag garnered more than 20bn views in two months. What you think of the result of the trial is irrelevant, but surely a social media app has no place in a court of law, but it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by them in today’s society.
Social media never sleeps and neither does news, but the two have one big difference; objectivity. On social media, be it TikTok, Instagram or Twitter, most things are opinion based and are quickly made into ‘hot takes’ whereas news should be reported straight and objectively.
On the plus side, with an ability to critically think and process information in the digital age, social media has the ability to make news much more accessible. Our advice is to follow reliable, verified news sources whether it’s on the telly, on the internet or on social media and always think critically.