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TikTok algorithm boosts posts about eating disorders, self-harm to teens, researchers say
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Researchers for a group dedicated to combating online "hate and disinformation" have published a study suggesting that the social media platform TikTok is promoting self-harm to teenage accounts through its algorithm system.
Researchers at the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate created TikTok accounts for fictional teen personas in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The researchers operating the accounts then "liked" videos about self-harm and eating disorders to see how TikTok’s algorithm would respond.
Within minutes, the platform’s algorithm began recommending content to the teenage accounts, showing them videos about losing weight and self-harm, including ones featuring pictures of models and idealized body types, images of razor blades and discussions of suicide.
When the researchers created accounts with user names that suggested a particular vulnerability to eating disorders — names that included the words "lose weight" for example — the accounts were fed even more harmful content.
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