TikTok has emerged as a source for news during the war in Ukraine. But will a young Russian see the same content as a Ukrainian of the same age?

NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) published a story which explores the impact of social network algorhytms - in this case TikTok - on what users can access and consume.

The story explains to young readers in a visual way how TikTok algorithms serve completely different content from the same war to users based on the country they come from – Ukrainian users on TikTok receive completely different content than Russian users. 

The colleagues from NRK used residential proxies to create TikTok accounts in the Ukrainian city Kharkiv and its neighbouring city Belgorod in Russia. Then they launched bots that scrolled through thousands of TikTok posts.

The NRK analyses showed that the Ukrainian bot saw soldiers, destroyed buildings and people seeking shelter. Meanwhile, the Russian bot was mostly occupied with dances, animals and memes. Even when the NRK gave the Russian bot preferences for war, the difference remained the same.

The conclusion is that even though Kharkiv and Belgorod are neighbouring cities, TikTok users in the two cities live worlds apart.

Watch the NRK story here:

NRK TikTok1

The story quickly went viral on digital platforms.