LOS ANGELES - More and more social media users are turning to TikTok for their news, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.
The survey found that in the past three years, the amount of Americans who say they get their news from TikTok has more than quadrupled from 3% in 2020 to 14% in 2023.
Among these adults, those aged 18-29 say TikTok is their main source of news.
It appears to be a growing trend for TikTok users specifically. Once known for its short dancing videos, it appears that 43% of TikTok users say they regularly get news on the site, up from 33% who said the same in 2022.
Pew analyzed data from nearly 9,000 U.S. adults and found that despite TikTok's growing numbers of news consumption, Facebook is still the most popular platform for news, with with 30% of Americans saying they regularly access news there, followed by YouTube with 26%, Instagram with 16% and TikTok with 14%, Pew found.
TikTok first launched in China in 2016 before going worldwide in 2018. It has since skyrocketed in popularity but not without growing scrutiny. The platform continues to face growing privacy concerns that have led to bans of the app on government devices and even statewide bans.
Ever since its unveiling worldwide, TikTok has had to fend off claims that its Chinese parent company, ByteDance shares data from its popular video-sharing app with the Chinese government, or push propaganda and misinformation on its behalf.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS ABOUT TIKTOK?
Both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share TikTok user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government.
A law implemented by China in 2017 requires companies to give the government any personal data relevant to the country’s national security. There’s no evidence that TikTok has turned over such data, but fears abound due to the vast amount of user data it, like other social media companies, collects.
Concerns around TikTok were heightened in December when ByteDance said it fired four employees who accessed data on two journalists from Buzzfeed News and The Financial Times while attempting to track down the source of a leaked report about the company.
ARE THE SECURITY RISKS LEGITIMATE?
It depends on who you ask.
Some tech privacy advocates say while the potential abuse of privacy by the Chinese government is concerning, other tech companies have data-harvesting business practices that also exploit user information.
"If policy makers want to protect Americans from surveillance, they should advocate for a basic privacy law that bans all companies from collecting so much sensitive data about us in the first place, rather than engaging in what amounts to xenophobic showboating that does exactly nothing to protect anyone," said Evan Greer, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Fight for the Future.
Karim Farhat, a researcher with the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech, said a TikTok sale would be "completely irrelevant to any of the alleged ‘national security’ threats" and go against "every free market principle and norm" of the state department’s internet freedom principles.
Others say there is legitimate reason for concern.
People who use TikTok might think they’re not doing anything that would be of interest to a foreign government, but that’s not always the case, said Anton Dahbura, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Important information about the United States is not strictly limited to nuclear power plants or military facilities; it extends to other sectors, such as food processing, the finance industry and universities, Dahbura said.