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TikTok is rising as a news platform.

The social media site is now the fastest growing source of news for adults in the UK, currently being used by seven percent of people over 18. The findings come from a survey conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator. Ofcom also found that Instagram and YouTube are prominent news sources, with Instagram being used by nearly three in 10 teenagers for keeping up to date.

TikTok’s rise is the largest though, with respondents saying they get their news mostly from “people they follow” rather than “news organisations”. 44 percent fall into this category. Next in line are friends and family, sitting at 32 percent. News organisations, like the BBC and ITV, account for 24 percent, lagging behind other categories.

News organisations are therefore in competition with TikTokkers themselves, rather than the traditional news outlet.

Older adults still prefer print, radio and television news sources, however. When it comes to TikTok, the growth is being pushed mostly by young adults and people in their 20s, between the ages of 16 and 24. This demographic accounts for half of the app’s news followers.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research, said, “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”.

The use of TikTok for news shouldn’t be surprising. In some ways, the app has become a substitute to the average search engine. Earlier this month, Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan noted that TikTok and Instagram are increasingly being used for discovery, rather than Google Search.

In the US, a quarter of adults – both millennial and Gen-Z – say they use TikTok to access news. The UK may be lagging in this respect, but if Ofcom’s survey is any indication, TikTok may be on the way to cementing itself as the news channel of today.

The caveat here, of course, is what kind of news people are absorbing. TikTok, like its digital predecessors Facebook and YouTube, has a misinformation problem. Fake news regarding the war in Ukraine has been condemned most recently, with the TikTok algorithm being flagged for consistently displaying false narratives about the conflict.

With the potential presence of misinformation, the use of TikTok as a news source is understandably contentious.

Under TikTok’s community guidelines, the app stresses that they “will remove misinformation that causes significant harm to individuals, our community, or the larger public regardless of intent”. Harm caused by misinformation includes “the undermining of public trust” when it comes to “civic institutions and processes such as governments, elections, and scientific bodies”.

The content falling under misinformation, according to TikTok, includes conspiratorial content, synthetic or manipulated media, and medical misinformation, amongst other pieces of news.

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