TikTok has manipulated its own algorithm to promote certain tent pole moments such as the World Cup or when Taylor Swift first joined the platform, Business Insider reported.
“We do promote content like the World Cup or when Taylor Swift joined, and at times boost it beyond the rating it would have ordinarily received from the recommendation system, much like Netflix promotes a featured video or movie on the homepage,” said Jeff Louisma, head of cyber and data defence for TikTok’s US Data Security division.
Such boosting will be applied to very few videos and is subjected to business rules, as Louisma indicated while speaking at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas.
It’s not even 8am and TikTok has ruined my day by telling me that taking very very hot showers is a sign of emotional instability
— Rebecca Reid (@RebeccaCNReid) March 14, 2023
The Los Angeles-based editorial team operates those boosts under the revision of its data-management partner Oracle to “ensure that no one has introduced any unexpected rules or behaviours into the system.”
Forbes reported earlier that ByteDance’s ubiquitously popular short video-sharing platform has a “heating” option. There were reportedly some incidents when employees improperly used the feature to promote their own or their spouses’ accounts and videos, violating company policy.
“Only a few people, based in the US, have the ability to approve content for promotion in the US, and that content makes up approximately .002% of videos in For You feeds,” a TikTok spokesperson told Forbes.
TikTok’s algorithm under close scrutiny
TikTok is on the verge of facing a nationwide ban in the US as the Senate discusses the proposed bill. The popular Chinese-owned app is alleged to have provided users’ information to China’s government to help with political propaganda.
TikTok’s algorithms are currently under close scrutiny due to privacy concerns and because they are facing continuous restrictions from western government agencies.
After numerous restrictions in the US, TikTok is now banned even in the private phones of Members of European Parliament (MEPs). Furthermore, many governments in Europe are following the trend to restrict it. Denmark, Germany, and now Denmark have become the latest countries to ban TikTok from government phones amid privacy concerns.
The UK to follow the banning trend?
Tom Tugendhat, UK security minister, has asked the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to look into TikTok after governments around the world took action to restrict the app.
Tugendhat claimed it was “absolutely essential” to keep the nation’s “diplomatic processes free and safe.”
“Understanding exactly the challenges that these apps pose, what they are asking for and how they’re reaching into our lives is incredibly important,” said Tugendhat.
TikTok, for its part, continues to deny the allegations and calls western restrictions “misguided and based on fundamental misconceptions.”
TikTok accused of mishandling harassment
The going has really been tough for TikTok recently: it is also accused of mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against a senior manager in London.
The allegation comes with longstanding concerns about the working culture at the fast-growing social media platform.
Four women who worked with Steve Ware, ex-head of TikTok’s UK ecommerce studio operations, have accused him of making inappropriate sexual comments and advances towards young female staff members and clients, including influencers who create content on the app.
Ware has denied the allegation and told the Financial Times that all allegations against him are “false.”