Social networks grow up faster these days. It took Facebook eight years to reach 1 billion users, but TikTok got there in just five. The fast-growing short-video app also got squeezed by political and regulatory concerns at a younger age over its Chinese ownership and influence on teen mental health.
The pressure on TikTok is now set to jump higher still. The European Union's recently agreed-upon Digital Services Act (DSA) places new restrictions on the largest platforms, a reaction to the way established platforms like Facebook and YouTube have been used to undermine elections, promote genocide, and spread dangerous conspiracy theories. But the new rules are likely to bring about bigger changes on TikTok than on more established platforms.
To date, TikTok has been less transparent and less thoroughly studied than Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. That's partly because it is a much younger service, and fewer researchers and journalists have scrutinized its workings. But TikTok has also not provided tools to enable researchers to study how content circulates on its platform, as Facebook and Twitter have done. When Europe's new rules force all large social platforms to open up their data and even algorithms to outside scrutiny, our understanding of TikTok may change most of all.
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