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TikTok tweaks algorithm for mental health reasons

TikTok has expanded customisation features on its “For You” feed in a bid to prevent users getting stuck in loops of negative content.

TikTok tweaks algorithm for mental health reasons
Photograph: Alexander Shatov on Unsplash.

In a statement, the company said: "We’re working to recognise 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."

It added that it would expand its curation features to “help people customise 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.” In practical terms this means a feature which would allow users to select words or hashtags associated with content they do not wish to see in their “For You” feed.

“As we continue to develop new strategies to interrupt repetitive patterns, we’re looking at how our system can better vary the kinds of content that may be recommended in a sequence,” they said. “That’s why we’re testing ways to avoid recommending a series of similar content - such as around extreme dieting or fitness, sadness, or breakups - to protect against viewing too much of a content category that may be fine as a single video but problematic if viewed in clusters.”

The company said that getting these features and tools right “will take time and iteration,” but that as “they learn or make progress” they will “share updates along the way.”

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