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TikTok makes changes to its ‘For You Page’ amid criticism over mysterious algorithm

·2-min read
Social Media LGBTQ (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Social Media LGBTQ (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TikTok has made significant changes to its “For You Page”, amid criticism that the algorithm that powers it remains largely mysterious.

TikTok’s feed, known as the FYP, has received praise for the way that it is able to find the kind of content that users want to watch and keep them flicking through new videos. But that has also led to criticism, among people who fear that the largely unexplained algorithm could also encourage people into unhealthy or radicalising kinds of videos.

The company is still refusing to explain how that FYP works, and is not giving any way to find out why certain videos have appeared. But it is adding new tools that should make it easier to remove unhealthy videos, keep young people from seeing inappropriate content, as well as to make recommendations more diverse.

The first of the new tools allows people to add certain words or hashtags and filter them out of of the for you page. TikTok suggested that users might want to hide DIY tutorials after they have finished a big home project, or remove meat or dairy-focused posts if they are pursuing a plant-based diet – but the tool could also be used to hide more unhealthy or triggering posts, too.

The company is also rolling out long-discussed tools to diversify the kind of posts that show, and avoid people falling into a trap of watching numerous posts on topics that could become unhealthy when viewed together. Those topics include “dieting, extreme fitness, sadness, and other well-being topics”, TikTok noted.

Users will now see fewer posts about those topics in one go. And the system is being changed over time, it said, so that it can be more nuanced and pick apart encouraging and sad posts, for instance.

TikTok is also adding new “Content Levels” which are similar to the age rating systems used in TV and films. Overtly mature content will be hidden from people who are under 18, for instance – making them less likely to see posts that might be frightening or intense.

The company warned that all the new features could come with “some mistakes” given the complexity of the problem and the way the app is used right across the world.

The new features will be rolling out in the coming weeks, TikTok said.

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