Many of us found ourselves entertaining one another during the isolating times of COVID, learning TikTok dances or participating in the latest TikTok trend. However, as the world continues to discover the creative capabilities of the platform, many are now also making TikTok their go-to for news and commentary. But is this a good thing?
TikTok has established itself as a short-form platform for selling products, promoting businesses and building individuals into money-making influencers. However, the rise in users using TikTok for their news could impact the content people see and how the content is created.
Legitimate news channels like CTV, CNN and others have created TikTok channels leveraging the app to highlight key news stories or provide a daily summary of news events. However, like with any external news platform, citizen journalism is also a hot “job” which also can bring the legitimacy of TikTok news into question.
As well, with its extensive content review policies, news outlets can find it difficult to report on deeper news topics without losing important context or triggering guideline violations. Words like death, sex and suicide, for example, are all no-no’s in the TikTok-sphere and can trigger content removal from the app. With our state of the world today, you can only imagine how this limits many of the stories our daily news outlets need to cover.
TikTok skews primarily to a younger adult demographic. This population wants news, and research shows that more and more of them are using the app to fill that need. But does this cause an increased risk in biased or fake news given the limitations put on credible news sources?
In my opinion, TikTok needs to be ready to feed the appetite for news but also ensure it is doing it accurately and safely. Currently the majority of the people on the platform reporting or providing commentary on news are not journalists. And while that can be a benefit in diversifying the media space as a whole with unique perspectives, if there are not formal regulations or principles behind this, the space is going to continue to be filled by individuals without any ethical standards or who hold an inherent bias.
TikTok needs to find a way to be a strong alternative news source to cater to those already seeking news in a quick, digestible way. They need to keep themselves accountable to news being credible and truthful. There are too many examples right now of teens and young adults learning about a topic through TikTok and being saturated with misinformation and bias. If TikTok wants to become a choice for news, it will need to define what that looks like and the ethical standards it will abide by.
But in a world where other channels like X are flipflopping on their standards around offensive or inaccurate content and Meta has removed all credible news sources all together, I wish TikTok luck. It will not be an easy task.
Lisa Libin is Managing Director at Brookline Public Relations and leads Brookline’s digital team. With a love for online trends and news, you will often find her watching the latest IG story or secretly learning the latest Tik Tok dance, though she will never admit it.