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TikTok says it’s varying For You recommendations to avoid harmful content holes

TikTok says it’s varying For You recommendations to avoid harmful content holes


The app is testing ways to break up clusters of problematic content, like dieting or breakup videos

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

TikTok is changing its For You Page algorithm to prevent users from seeing too many similar videos that could be harmful when viewed in clusters, the company said today. The goal is to steer users away from clusters of videos that might “reinforce a negative personal experience,” listing extreme dieting, sadness, and breakup content as examples.

“At TikTok, we recognize that too much of anything, whether it’s animals, fitness tips, or personal well-being journeys, doesn’t fit with the diverse discovery experience we aim to create,” the company says in its release. The For You feed uses metrics like how long a viewer lingers over content to recommend videos.

TikTok’s personalized recommendations algorithm has been the subject of scrutiny. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal demonstrated how the app can push young users down rabbit holes of sex and drugs, showing similar content repeatedly. Health experts say more research is needed on the app, which surpassed 1 billion monthly users in September.

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.