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TikTok a source of news for every tenth American

One in 10 Americans now regularly use TikTok as a source of news, a new survey has found. The number has tripled in two years – just as disinformation on the platform picked up.

Only 3% of Americans claimed to regularly use TikTok, a Chinese-owned video-sharing platform, as a news source in 2020. The number is up to 10% in 2022, according to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center.

More people still browse Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram for news, but their numbers have dropped or stagnated in recent years – in contrast to TikTok’s growing popularity, the survey showed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger Americans will most likely get their news on TikTok. About a quarter of adults under 30 said they regularly get their news on the app – a notable increase from the last two years.

Image by Pew Research Center

In comparison, one in ten Americans aged 30 to 49 use TikTok for news. The number falls further as the age limit increases. Only 4% of those between 50 and 64 and just 1% of those 65 and older use the platform to keep up with current events.

The survey showed that the share of American adult TikTok users who regularly check their feed for news has also increased to 33% – up from 22% two years ago.

Over half of Twitter users get their regular news on the platform, as do 44% of Facebook and 37% of Reddit users. In contrast to TikTok’s, however, these values have plummeted since 2020.

Image by Pew Research Center

Surge of disinformation

The rise of TikTok as a news source coincides with its user base reaching adulthood, prompting the video platform to start differentiating its content based on the target audience’s age.

It’s also changing the way people use the internet, with TikTok now taking the spot of Google as a search engine for Gen Z, according to The New York Times. Google estimates that about 40% of young people now use TikTok or Instagram when deciding on everyday matters, such as choosing a place for lunch.

As users turn to TikTok for answers, the platform struggles to tackle a surge of misinformation. According to a recent investigation by NewsGuard, a media credibility tracking service, almost 20% of the videos presented as search results on topics like Russia’s war against Ukraine, school shootings, or COVID-19 vaccines were misleading or straight-up false.

Meanwhile, a report released by the Global Witness and the Cybersecurity for Democracy team at New York University showed that TikTok fared the worst among major social platforms in preventing election disinformation.

Even though the platform does not allow political advertising, it approved 90% of the ads that contained false or misleading election statements, including “blatant” US midterms disinformation, the report said.

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