The New York TimesThe New York Times

The latecomer's guide to TikTok

By J.D. Biersdorfer

26 Oct 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Are you curious about TikTok but not sure how it works? If so, this New York Times guide will help you find out what you've been missing.

It has become impossible to ignore TikTok. It’s been a hugely popular short-form video app for hyperkinetic bursts of self-expression for years, now with more than 1 billion active users worldwide (some even use it as a search engine).

TikTok is not just for viral dance videos — it’s also wildly complicated. Its algorithm, which makes it easy to consume videos, has been blamed for amplifying misinformation and other harmful content. The Biden administration is currently negotiating with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, over concerns about national security and the safety of Americans’ personal data on foreign servers. And there are ongoing concerns about the mental health harms the app may pose to teenagers and young people.

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