Tik Tok is full of videos of teen eating disorders
Tik Tok is full of videos of teen eating disorders

The Wall Street Journal published a report examining the personal experiences of young girls facing severe weight loss challenges and fatal diets that led to or exacerbated eating disorders through Tik Tok. .

The newspaper conducted its own experiments to understand how the platform's algorithm promotes such harmful content. Its findings could explain why TikTok suddenly decided to change the way its video recommendation system works.

As described in the report, the Wall Street Journal created more than 100 accounts that crawled into the app with minimal human intervention, 12 of which were registered bots of 13-year-olds spending time watching and wasting time gambling.

The graphic included in the report shows that the platform's algorithm automatically adjusts itself once the bot suddenly stops watching game videos and spends time on weight loss videos. This quickly increased the number of weight loss videos that robots watched explaining this change in behavior.

At the end of the experiment, the newspaper found that out of a total of 255,000 videos the robot watched, 32,700 contained descriptions or metadata matching hundreds of weight loss keywords.

11,615 videos contain text descriptions matching keywords related to eating disorders. And 4402 contains a number of keywords that refer to the normalization of eating disorders.

Some of the videos aim to use different spellings to manipulate keywords related to the disease to avoid being flagged by Tik Tok.

Report can explain the sudden change in TikTok policy

After the Wall Street Journal issued a warning to the platform, the platform had 2,960 video samples related to eating disorders. 1,778 videos have been deleted.

The Wall Street Journal said it was not clear if it was removed by TikTok or by the content creators themselves.

A day before the publication of the Wall Street Journal report, the platform announced that it will look for new ways to prevent this dangerous phenomenon.

The change also came days after the newspaper said it had contacted the platform for comment on its next report. Therefore, TikTok can proactively release updates before the report is released.

The platform says that it is not always a good idea to watch certain types of content over and over again. Contains videos about extreme diet and fitness.

The platform is currently working on a way to determine if their recommendations system inadvertently sent any videos that could not violate their guidelines. However, if consumed in excess, these clips can be harmful.

The platform also said that it is testing a tool that will allow users to prevent videos containing certain words or hashtags from appearing on the For You page.

A spokesperson for the platform said, although this experience does not mirror most people's experience with Tik Tok. But there are a lot of people with this kind of experience. We allow content focused on education or rehabilitation because we know it can help people see hope. However, it is prohibited to advertise, print, or embellish eating disorders.

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