Zach Duda
Dangerous Online Misinformation
Nov 22, 2023

There's an increasingly worrisome trend I've noticed in the social media space: misinformation. But this isn't some classic "Oh but Zach, misinformation has been around for decades there's nothing different". That's where you're wrong. This misinformation is being fueled by something far more sinister: corporate dollars.

In 2020 during the height of the pandemic, Tiktok took a noticeable shift from funny cat videos and entertainment, to it's more recent stage of news, education, and informative style content. In September 2023, Tiktok launched the the Tiktok shop. And this will serve as a blaring red flag for what's already been happening. Tiktok sits at nearly 1 billion active users, 67% of which are under the age of 20. To rephrase: Well over HALF of all Gen-Z's population around the globe relies on TikTok daily for their information.

As of writing this, I am 21 years old, and I use Tiktok for at least 2 hours a day. That's 730 hours in a year. That's equal to me sitting down for an nearly an entire month, no sleep, no breaks, watching Tiktok for 30 days straight. Why is it so addictive, and why is it becoming so dangerous?

From the recent dystopian trend of "NPC Livestreams" to the far more scary callout from the FTC citing TikTok influencers and dietitians being bribed by American Beverage Association (ABA) to promote Aspartame and Sugar consumption. These two cases are not isolated either. PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Keurig are using the exact play-by-play tactics used by Cigarette Companies in the 50's to market tobacco products as a "health" item.

Bribes aside, there's also the issue of quantity over quality. Creators on any social media platform, not just Tiktok are encouraged to release content that causes a stir, regardless of its factual merit. This has catalyzed creators pumping out "informative" or "educational" videos that use little do no research and usually encourage a call to action. We can't have society making decisions on half-baked facts, and that's what's so scary.

We may tease older generations falling for phone scams or email spam, and now, it's our turn. Social media is not evil, and neither is Tiktok: it's about being aware of what's in front of you. Everyone has their own motives and biases, and everyone will try and pull you to one side.