TikTok to vary recommendations to avoid harmful content holes

TikTok will change its algorithm to avoid harmful streams of negative or problematic content, the company said Thursday, in an effort to tackle rises of criticism over social media’s damaging effects on young users’ psyches.

This development comes after a series of incidents related to TikTok, with the latest reporting that school districts across the United States cancelled classes on Friday due to reports of threats that are supposedly being made on TikTok.

Districts in California, Texas, Minnesota, and Missouri said they plan to close down Friday in response, according to the districts and local media reports. Elsewhere, districts have said they plan to have heightened police presence or have emailed parents to say they’ve been investigating the allegations.

“At TikTok, we recognize that too many things, whether it’s animals, fitness advice or personal wellness trips, don’t match the diverse discovery experience we aim to. create,” the company said in its statement.

The For You feed uses metrics like how long a viewer lingers on content to recommend videos, whilst TikTok’s personalized recommendations algorithm has come under intense scrutiny.

In addition, a survey of The Wall Street Journal has shown how the app can push young users into sex and drug burrows, showing similar content over and over. Health experts say more research is needed on the app, which surpassed one billion monthly users in September.

The company’s algorithm combines metrics like how long a user lingers over a piece of content to inform recommendations, which could cause users to spiral down the rabbit hole at the steep cost of their mental health.

The company also announced it was working on features that would allow users more ways to customize what content isn’t shown to them. Users would be able to choose hashtags and words related to content they don’t want to see on the For You feed.

Users already have the option to signal they’re not interested in a video, and TikTok says similar content will be shown less often.