More young people are accessing news on TikTok, with users of some social media increasingly paying more attention to influencers than journalists, a report has found.
The social media app is becoming one of the fastest-growing social networks and is used by 44% of 18-24-year-olds for any purpose and by 20% for news.
The annual study conducted by the Reuters Institute looked at 93,895 adults in 46 countries including the UK, with around 2,000 people in each market.
Last year’s report found 40% of 18-24-year-olds used Tiktok, with 15% using the platform for news.
The survey found that Facebook was becoming less popular as a news source, with only 28% of people saying they accessed news on the app this year, compared with 42% in 2016.
The research revealed that on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, users pay more attention to celebrities and social media influencers than they do to journalists and media companies when it comes to news topics.
Some 55% of TikTok users and 52% of Instagram users got their news from “personalities” on the respective platforms compared to just 33% getting their news from mainstream media and journalists on TikTok and 42% on Instagram.
The survey also found TikTok users (44%) were far more trusting of “ordinary people” for getting their news than those of other platforms, of which none was above 37%.
However, according to the report, news usage for Twitter has remained “relatively stable” in most countries.
As a form of cutting back on “depressing news”, the report also found that audiences were increasingly avoiding stories such as the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis.
Research showed declining interest in news generally in many countries and high levels of selective news avoidance, with 36% saying they actively avoid news “sometimes or often”.
Among news avoiders, 53% said they scroll past news and change channels when news comes on, while 32% said they avoid topics that bring down their mood or increase anxiety.
Some people also said that news stories are too “emotionally draining”.
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The report also found that trust in the news has fallen by two percentage points in the past year and that 56% of people said they worry about identifying the difference between what is real and fake on the internet when it comes to news – up two percentage points compared with last year.
Lead report author Nic Newman said: “It is clear that many websites and apps are optimised for those that are super-engaged with every twist and turn of today’s news (and politics) agenda.
“But these approaches also seem to be turning large sections of the public away – with potential long-term implications for civic and democratic engagement.”
Tiktok has faced criticism in recent years, with the the TikTok app being banned on government devices in Australia, Canada, the EU and the UK due to alleged links between the platform and the Chinese government. In the state of Montana, it has been banned from being installed on any device.
The Information Commissioners Office said last month that around 1.4 million under-13s in the UK are routinely using the platform, and TikTok was insufficiently concerned at this industrial abuse of its terms and conditions with the result under-13s were being potentially delivered “harmful, inappropriate content” – a finding TikTok contests.
Meanwhile, Cyberwise says there can be negative impacts on children using TikTok in comparison to other forms of traditional media, such as harms to privacy and self-esteem and users can be exposed to a space filled with negative comments and even to sexual predators.
According to Statista, in a survey conducted in 2022 in the UK, 15% of TikTok users aged between 13 and 17 years had experienced anonymous trolling, and a further 15% had seen sexualised images on the platform.
The survey also found issues with other social media, with 14% of teenagers in the UK who used YouTube recently seeing violent or gory content, and one in ten respondents seeing images about diet restrictions on Instagram.