Can You Really Trust TikTok? How to Spot Misinformation

I graduated with a degree in journalism and studied and practiced fact-checking, and I still get caught believing false information on TikTok from time to time.

We are primed to trust the information we see on TikTok. When we're on the app, we're relaxed and our guard is down, so we're not focused on critical thinking. We also assume that misinformation will be obvious when in reality, false information is so close to the truth that lines are often blurred. I am fortunate that my degree required me to thoroughly research sources and fact-check everything, but I know not everybody has the opportunity to learn or practice these skills.

Why is it so important that we recognize and stop misinformation? Is it really harmful if people think that dogs can see ghosts? While it's not really important when the information is insignificant, it is dangerous when we normalize misinformation that could have real-life consequences. This is why people share fake information about politics and world events on social media, where we are more inclined to believe without checking. It's essential to take the time to check that information is accurate before sharing or believing it—and here's how to do just that.

Question Everything

You should question everything, even when it sounds true or comes from someone you trust. It doesn't mean the information is wrong or that you can't believe anyone, but stay curious and don't accept everything as a fact. In addition, ask yourself one question before you share a video; will this information help, harm, or is it neutral? If it's not serious, you don't have to worry, but if you're sharing information that could potentially have consequences, it's best to make sure it's true.

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(via Shutterstock)


Try to Discern Whether It's an Opinion or a Fact

When you are watching a video, listen for keywords that might alert you to whether it's a fact or an opinion disguised as a fact. When someone relies on words like "I strongly believe" or "I feel that," it's most likely an opinion. This does not mean their opinion isn't also a fact, but consider that the information they are presenting may be biased due to how they perceive the topic.

Shutterstock: woman wearing a white shirt and blue cardigan, sitting in front of open MacBook, checking phone and taking notes in front of a grey brick wall and window

(via Shutterstock)


Check the Source

Check for reliable sources of information from experts, academic studies or unbiased news sources. You should also see if you can confirm the information for multiple sources. If the information comes from one influencer or one news source, it's helpful to wait until more people speak on it before sharing the information.

Shutterstock: woman wearing a yellow shirt and glasses, taking notes in notebook while looking at a MacBook with a red cover, in a library

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Read Up About it

Read past the headline! The headline often doesn't tell the entire story and it might be misleading. Not only will this help you discern if the information is accurate, but it will allow you to form your own opinion on the information. You don't have to do an entire research project; just do a little background search to make sure you're getting the whole story.
Shutterstock: woman sitting on a wooden bench in front of window, sitting on pillow on an open MacBook placed on a small wooden table with her book bag and books holding a white cup

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You Don't Need to Be An Expert—You Just Need to Be Careful.

You don't have to know everything and you don't have to fact-check every single thing you see on TikTok. That would make TikTok like a homework assignment instead of a way to accidentally procrastinate for two hours, but it's critical to remember that you can't believe everything on TikTok. Just think about all the TikTok life hacks that turn out to be false! Yeah, exactly. Most inconsequential information won't matter, but if it's a serious topic that may affect people or perpetuate false beliefs, do a little research and be informed.

Shutterstock: woman wearing floral dress and sunglasses smiling at phone

(via Shutterstock)


Looking for a way to support your favorite TikToker? Check out these nine TikTokers with impressive Amazon storefronts.