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TikTok's Algorithm: The Dark Side of Viral Trends and Echo Chambers

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

The future of TikTok's ban is uncertain, but the potential dangers associated with the app cannot be ignored.

 An image displaying the iconic logo of TikTok, a popular social media platform known for its short-form videos. The TikTok logo features a stylized musical note in vibrant shades of red and black.

TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with over a billion active users. As governments and social media platforms grapple with the challenges posed by TikTok, including the app's addictive nature, promotion of viral trends, and handling of controversial content, a growing concern over the ban of TikTok is carried across the internet.


With the rise of competitors, such as YouTube and Instagram, and the potential for a loss of user trust, the future of TikTok as a social media giant may be in jeopardy.


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Echo Chambers

TikTok's algorithm is designed to show users content that aligns with their interests and beliefs. While this can enhance user experience, it can also create echo chambers, where users are only exposed to content that reinforces their existing views and opinions. This can lead to polarization and a lack of understanding between different groups, which can be used to push policy and agendas.


According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 64% of US adults say that social media has a mostly negative effect on the way news is reported. Another study found that 50% of young people aged 18-29 get their news from social media, which can lead to a narrow range of perspectives being presented.


Explore the fascinating blend of artificial intelligence, user behavior analysis, and content relevance that drives the TikTok algorithm, making it a prominent force in the social media landscape."

Filter Bubbles

TikTok's algorithm filters out content that it determines is not relevant to the user, which can lead to a narrow range of perspectives being presented. This can limit users' exposure to different ideas and viewpoints, which can have negative consequences for critical thinking and decision-making.


During a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, the phenomenon of filter bubbles was found to have a significant impact on political discourse. The study revealed that users who are only exposed to content that reinforces their pre-existing views and opinions are more likely to become entrenched in their beliefs, less likely to engage with opposing perspectives, and more prone to radicalization.


In fact, the study found that exposure to ideologically diverse news sources on social media can reduce partisan animosity by up to 50%. These findings are particularly significant given TikTok's algorithmic approach, which tailors content to individual users based on their preferences and behaviors.


With the potential to contribute to polarization and division, it is crucial that social media platforms take steps to address the issue of filter bubbles and promote a more diverse range of perspectives on their platforms.


Viral Trends

TikTok's algorithm is designed to promote viral content, which can lead to a homogenization of culture as everyone jumps on the same bandwagon. This is often seen as a result of influencer services that boost the same message across several audience demographics. This can create a herd mentality and discourage individuality and creativity.


An example of a viral trend on TikTok that was led by herd mentality was the "Benadryl Challenge." The challenge, which began in 2019, involved taking excessive amounts of the over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl in an attempt to experience a hallucinogenic trip.


Despite warnings from healthcare professionals and the makers of Benadryl, the challenge went viral on TikTok, with users posting videos of themselves taking large doses of the medication. This led to a wave of negative bandwagoning as more and more users joined in on the trend without fully understanding the potential dangers.


The "Benadryl Challenge" quickly became a serious concern, with reports of hospitalizations and deaths linked to the trend. In one case, a 15-year-old girl died after reportedly taking large amounts of Benadryl as part of the challenge.


The trend highlights the dangers of viral content and the potential for bandwagoning to lead to harmful behavior. While TikTok has taken steps to remove content related to the "Benadryl Challenge," the incident serves as a reminder of the need for social media platforms to take responsibility for the content they promote and to actively work to prevent harmful trends from spreading.


According to Professor David Carroll, an expert in data privacy at Parsons School of Design, "Viral trends lead to conformity and inauthenticity."

Ultimately, this social discord can be used to manipulate user behavior, encouraging users to engage with more content, stay on the app for longer periods of time, and spend money on virtual goods.


TikTok app, creating and consuming short-form videos. Experience the vibrant and interactive world of TikTok, where users showcase their creativity, entertain, and connect with a global community.

Manipulation of Behavior

TikTok's algorithm is constantly learning from user behavior and using that data to optimize the user experience and enhance TikTok advertising. This can include encouraging users to stay on the app for longer periods of time, engaging with more content, and spending money on virtual goods.


According to Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, "The more time we spend on these platforms, the more addictive they become. "This can lead to addiction and compulsive behavior, which can have negative consequences for mental health.


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Lack of Transparency

Although the company has disclosed that it employs a multifaceted approach to recommend content, taking into account factors such as user behavior, device and account settings, and video information, it has not divulged specifics about the inner workings of the algorithm.


This opaqueness raises concerns about potential manipulation of user behavior, as the platform has a significant influence on the type of content that is served to users. By not providing a clear understanding of the algorithm, TikTok leaves room for speculation and apprehension about the fairness of its content recommendations.


This sort of lack of transparency can contribute to fears about biases in content recommendations, as it is unclear how the platform identifies and prioritizes certain types of content over others. This can lead to questions about whether TikTok is promoting specific viewpoints or suppressing others, which could have far-reaching implications for freedom of expression and diversity of thought on the platform.


In order to alleviate these concerns, it is crucial for TikTok to provide a more comprehensive and informative explanation of its algorithmic processes. By doing so, the platform can foster trust and transparency among its user base, mitigate concerns about potential biases, and ensure that it remains a platform where diverse voices and perspectives can be fairly represented.


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Privacy concerns

TikTok has also faced criticism over its handling of user data and privacy concerns. The app has been accused of collecting and sharing user data with the Chinese government, although the company denies these claims.


Additionally, the app has faced scrutiny over its use of facial recognition technology and its collection of user biometric data. Privacy concerns have also been raised over the app's handling of user data.


The company has not provided detailed information on how the algorithm works. According to US Senator Josh Hawley, "TikTok claims they don't censor content, but the truth is they are censoring information that doesn't align with the Chinese Communist Party."


 An image illustrating individuals searching for 'TikTok' on the Google search engine. Witness the curiosity and interest as people explore and discover more about the popular social media platform

Controversial content

TikTok has also been criticized for its handling of controversial content, including hate speech, misinformation, and harmful content. The app has faced backlash for its slow response to removing harmful content and for its lack of transparency regarding its content moderation policies.


One example of a TikToker who has showcased some of the symptoms of the issues surrounding TikTok's algorithm is Bryce Hall. Hall is a popular TikToker with over 20 million followers who has been known to promote viral trends and participate in i.


In 2020, Hall was criticized for attending a party in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to him receiving a warning from the city's mayor. This behavior can be seen as an example of the algorithm's ability to manipulate user behavior, encouraging users to engage in risky behavior to gain more followers and likes.


Additionally, Hall has been known to engage in controversial content, including promoting the use of the N-word and making jokes about sexual assault. This highlights the app's handling of harmful content and its slow response to removing such content.


 An image displaying the recognizable logo of YouTube, an online video-sharing platform.

The Great Youtube Migration

If TikTok were to be banned, it is likely that many of its users would migrate to other social media platforms, including YouTube Shorts. YouTube Shorts is a relatively new feature of the YouTube platform that allows users and social media management to create and share short-form video content, similar to TikTok. This could be due to the familiarity with the short-form video format and the convenience of being able to access it on an app that they are already using.


YouTube Shorts has already gained popularity among users, with the app reporting that it is now receiving more than 6.5 billion daily views. Additionally, YouTube has been actively promoting the feature, with its CEO, Susan Wojcicki, stating that the platform is "committed to making Shorts a top priority."


However, it is important to note that the migration of users from TikTok to YouTube Shorts may not be immediate, as TikTok has established a strong user base and community. Additionally, YouTube Shorts may face similar issues to TikTok, such as privacy concerns, content moderation, and algorithmic bias. As such, it is important for users to be aware of these issues and to take steps to mitigate their effects.


In conclusion, while TikTok may seem like a harmless and entertaining app, it is important to be aware of the potential consequences of its algorithm. The creation of echo chambers, filter bubbles, and viral trends can have serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Additionally, the lack of transparency and privacy concerns surrounding the app should give users pause before investing their time and resources into it. It's essential to encourage others to be weary in investing in TikTok and to be mindful of the potential risks when using the app.




 

About Altered State Productions

Altered State Productions blends cutting-edge technology with creative storytelling, delivering digital content that captivates and communicates. The agency prides itself on transforming ideas into impactful digital content that engages audiences and drives the narrative forward. With a pulse on the latest tech and a knack for creative solutions, Altered State Productions is the partner of choice for those seeking to make a bold statement in digital media and marketing.

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