Skip to main content

TikTok wants to tweak its algorithm to avoid problematic content

TikTok today announced it would be rolling out additional customization features to its “For You” feed, the endlessly scrolling video page that made the app so popular. The company acknowledged in a release today that its predictive algorithm could reinforce negative experiences by repeating videos about emotionally volatile topics — like breakups.

TikTok came to popularity on the strength of its algorithm. Bordering on prescience, the app would recommend users’ videos that adhered so closely to their tastes, it was even claimed to predict the sexuality of people who had no awareness of it themselves. At the same time, the algorithm’s tendency to give you more of what you’re interested in can lead to negative outcomes if what you are interested in is having a negative effect on your life.

To roll back to the breakup example, TikTok points out that someone who has recently broken up with a partner could end up being deluged by several breakup videos on their feed, reinforcing negative emotions. It’s an issue that other social media platforms have struggled with, and one that none have effectively solved yet. TikTok’s approach won’t just wholesale banish such content from the site. It’ll look into varying the frequency these videos are shown on the feed, so they don’t “cluster” and are interspersed with unrelated videos.

“We’re also working to recognize if our system may inadvertently be recommending only very limited types of content that, though not violative of our policies, could have a negative effect if that’s the majority of what someone watches, such as content about loneliness or weight loss. Our goal is for each person’s For You feed to feature a breadth of content, creators, and topics,” the TikTok team said, consulting with experts in fields ranging from psychology to AI ethics.

The company will also now expand its curation features (primarily a not interested button at this time) with a new tool to “help people customize their feed – whether for a vegetarian who wants to see fewer meat recipes, or someone working on self-esteem who would rather see fewer beauty tutorials.”

It’s not yet clear when this new tool will become available, but we’ll update you when we find out more.

Editors' Recommendations

Michael Allison
A UK-based tech journalist for Digital Trends, helping keep track and make sense of the fast-paced world of tech with a…
New feature shows that even Twitter wants to be like TikTok now
Twitter's new full screen feature for videos on the mobile app.

Is TikTok the new queen bee of social media? It appears so as even Twitter couldn't resist copying TikTok. Twitter's latest feature announcement seems to be yet another indication that the viral video app sensation is clearly the new leader among its peers. After all, TikTok is setting trends and its competitors are all following them.

On Thursday, Twitter announced two new video-focused features for its app and one of those features bears a strong resemblance to TikTok. That feature (known as the "immersive media viewer") allows users to open videos in a vertical "full-screen mode" -- just like TikTok -- and continue to view more videos by swiping up (also just like TikTok).

Read more
You can now downvote comments on TikTok videos
The TikTok app on a smartphone's screen. The smartphone is sitting on a white table.

TikTok has a new feature and this time it's for the comment section of its short-form videos.

On Friday, TikTok announced via a tweet that it was globally releasing a new dislike button feature for TikTok video comments. The tweeted announcement offered up a few details about what to expect and an image of the new feature:

Read more
TikTok is banning campaign fundraising on its app
A person's hand holding a phone with the TikTok app on it.

As we get closer to the U.S. midterm elections, TikTok and other social media platforms have been ramping up changes to their apps and their policies in an effort to curb misinformation and clean up other problems plaguing their platforms. And now, TikTok is issuing a few more changes to its policies that are specifically targeted at political party, politician, and government TikTok accounts. The biggest change? It plans to ban campaign fundraising on the app.

On Wednesday, TikTok published a blog post in which it announced a ban on campaign fundraising and mandatory verification for certain political accounts (in the U.S.).

Read more