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TikTok algorithms may provide unfavorable content on feed

TikTok is a popular social-networking app made in China, used by over 800 million people around the world. TikTok users can dance, sing, make jokes, and show off their talents in short videos. The app’s main age group is between 16 and 24, with 41% of its users within that age group, according to a Globalwebindex study in 2019. The app, although popular, has quickly become mainstream for some of the wrong reasons, such as racist and homophobic trends.

One trend on TikTok that is infamous is the, “How’s my form,” trend. The trend uses the sound of a woman talking and then switches to the song “Yoga” by 645AR. The start of the TikTok has something along the lines of “how to do (insert something).” After that, it says “now that all of (insert group of people are here), how’s my form?” The trend quickly became racist, with people saying something stereotypical to people’s races, and then adding a picture of them performing an action that is also stereotypical. Most of these videos included something racist such as pretending to pick up cotton, or getting whipped. Most people who took part in this trend ended up being doxxed, with most of their personal information ending up online. Schools and workplaces of these people were contacted, and many were expelled or fired from their job.

For an app with such a young audience, it initially wouldn’t make sense that racist TikToks would be allowed on the app. But it does make sense when you go through the history of TikTok and the algorithms on the app. TikTok formerly flagged users who were disabled, fat, or a part of the LGBTQ+ community and tried to make their TikToks not trend. The app stated that this was a way to try to stop bullying. TikTok has said that they have changed this algorithm. However, users of TikTok who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community have still complained that if they show their significant other with them in a video, their TikToks are deleted. 

TikTok doesn’t only suppress or delete videos that include LGBTQ+ individuals, but the app also suppresses black people. A fourteen year old girl by the name of Jalaiah Harmon created the popular renegade dance. While her white counterparts were in the trending page, Jalaiah was getting no credit. Some of her white counterparts were invited to basketball games and news interviews, to perform a dance created by her. It wasn’t until people took to Twitter demanding that she received proper credit for her work that people began to learn who the original creator was. Due to the outrage, Jalaiah started getting invited to NBA games and even appeared on TheEllenShow. Jalaiah now has over 2 million followers on TikTok.

An algorithm of TikTok that isn’t racist or homophobic, but still slightly disturbing, is when you follow someone, the people who are in your reccommended to follow look exactly like the person you just followed. If you follow someone who is blonde and white, chances are that the other people in your recommended to follow look about the same and have the same characteristics. 

TikTok, even though it clearly has flaws, still remains popular. Users of the app average 52 minutes on the app every day, according to a BusinessofApps study. While TikTok gains more popularity, even more questions will be raised regarding the algorithms and trends used and allowed on the app.

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