The percentage of people getting news from TikTok has tripled since 2020; around 10 percent of all US adults now regularly get news on the app. For adults under 30, that number jumps to 26 percent.
People already on TikTok are also shifting how they use the app, in this case increasingly as a source of news. One-third of adult users on the app say they get their news on the platform, up from 22 percent in 2020. TikTok becoming more of a news app is in contrast with other platforms, where Pew found that news consumption was stagnant or trending downward. On Facebook, for example, 54 percent of adults on the platform said they were getting news there in 2020; now, that number is down to 44 percent. YouTube, meanwhile, has stayed steadily flat over the last few years, with around one-third of users getting news on the platform.
For young adults, it’s no surprise that TikTok might be replacing or supplementing other sources as a place to find news. Last month, the New York Times wrote about Gen Z using TikTok as a search engine (my colleague David Pierce tested it for a few days, and it worked surprisingly well).
TikTok stopped being the children’s dancing app a long time ago. But even in the last year, we’ve seen major news events documented on TikTok, with viewers captivated by breathless video updates. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ukrainian war influencers surfaced through the algorithm, documenting the state of the conflict while millions tuned in via short clips. When Johnny Depp’s defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard was happening, Depp supporters posted real-time trial updates to TikTok including analysis and conspiracy theories. As creators gamed the social media spectacle through pro-Depp content, their audience ballooned in size.
As more people turn to TikTok for news, the platform has struggled to contain misinformation related to topics like the war in Ukraine, abortion, elections, and COVID-19. A recent study by NewsGuard found that almost 20 percent of videos returned in a TikTok search contained misinformation.