Millions of young people will vote for the first time in the presidential election this November, creating a new set of concerns about the role of social media in influencing votes this year.
In fact, a recent NBC News poll of Generation Z, those born between the late ’90s and early 2010s, found that 48% rely on social media to find news. For context, only 36% said they use network TV.
TikTok in particular has given a political platform to content creators from all walks of life. The video-sharing app’s Republican Hype House account has accrued almost 900,000 followers, and Democrat Hype House has almost 200,000. But questions about the accuracy of the information being spread remain — even if both sides of the aisle are represented.
In addition to TikTok, both Instagram and Twitter are also popular sources, multiple teens told NBC News in a recent segment on Stay Tuned.
“The majority of what people are seeing (on politics TikTok) is this face-value version of it, where you only get the headlines and you only get the bare minimum amount of information that you can get,” explained JoJo Escobedo, a high school senior. “It’s really kind of scary sometimes because you can get really radical views off of it.”
The manager of Republican Hype House, Liam Rafizadeh, 20, said that most of the account’s posts start with a screenshot of a recent news story and a callout in a group chat to create content around it.
“We’re in group chats with other organizations, like Turning Point USA,” he said, referencing a well-known right-wing organization geared toward high school and college students. “We don’t just scrape off. You see it on CNN, you see it on Fox News. That doesn’t mean it’s 100% true.”
Alyssa Locke, another creator for the Republican Hype House, told NBC News that she only started making content about politics two months ago.
“I saw a lot of content that I did not agree with at all, and I didn’t want that to be the only thing that people saw,” she said.
Caralyn Elrod, who works with Democrat Hype House, told NBC News that she got involved in political TikTok back in March because she knew this would be her first time voting in a presidential election.
“I was like, I might as well education myself. I feel like if I didn’t have TikTok, I would just be closed-minded conservative and I would just vote for what my parents are voting for,” she said.
Regardless of the of the creators’ reasons for joining the platform, their messages can still get lost in translation and lead to misinformation, intentionally or not. Escobedo called it “a weird game of telephone” because “details often get lost.”
But the purpose of talking politics on TikTok isn’t necessarily to tell the whole story, according to Rafizadeh. He said the content is meant to be “more fun” than traditional news.
“I wouldn’t say get your news from TikTok, get your news from Twitter,” he explained. “Our goal is for people to do their own research. … I would never be like, ‘I saw this on TikTok. It’s true.’ Anyone can have a TikTok.”
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