Research Shows Extreme Diet Clips From TikTok ‘Feeding Eating Disorders’ As Algorithm Bombards Teens Interested In Pictures
- Investigative journalists discover fake teen profiles
- Tiktok algorithm has flooded its accounts with tens of thousands of diet posts
- The Chinese TikTok app recently became the most downloaded app in the world
- TikTok said it will adjust its recommendation algorithm to protect its users
An investigation has found that Tiktok is promoting videos of dramatic weight loss for teenage users, which experts claim may lead to eating disorders.
Investigative journalists have created dozens of fake profiles registered as 13-year-olds on the video-sharing platform, which recently became the world’s most downloaded app.
They found that in just a few weeks the TikTok algorithm was flooding accounts with tens of thousands of diet posts.
Many recommended consuming only water while some gave advice on how to eat less than 300 calories a day and suggested taking laxatives for overeating.
Other posts showed emaciated girls with prominent bones, dieting the bodies of the bride, exposing those who succumbed to thinness as “disgusting”.
Experts have previously warned about how the app’s algorithm could send users into rabbit holes of narrow interest – potentially leading to potentially dangerous videos.
TikTok has since said it will tweak its recommendation algorithm to avoid showing users too much of the same content – including extreme dieters – to protect their mental health.
An investigation found that Tiktok was promoting massive weight loss videos for teen users that experts claim may lead to eating disorders.
The China-owned company, whose global monthly users exceeded one billion people this year, made the announcement days after contacting the Wall Street Journal, which conducted the investigation.
In response, TikTok said it continues to invest in removing content that violates its rules.
It is estimated that 1.25 million Britons suffer from eating disorders, according to Beat Charity.
Hope Virgo, a mental health activist who has spoken out about her eating disorders, said she has seen “firsthand the impact of social media on young people” from her work in schools across the UK.
She told the Daily Mail:[Dieting content] It causes many individuals, both adults and children, to question their bodies and their daily food decisions.
In order to create an environment in which eating disorders do not thrive, TikTok and other social media sites must take responsibility and urgently address these issues.
In all, more than 32,000 weight loss videos were submitted to fake profiles from October to this month. Some were not offered anything.
China-owned TikTok recently became the most downloaded app in the world and the number of global monthly users crossed 1 billion this year
Once the TikTok algorithms decided they would rewatch the clips, they quickly started serving more, even diet and fitness content making up more than half of their feed without even searching for it. Many promoted fasting and gave tips on how to burn stomach fat quickly.
Posts were also able to bypass app screens by slight tweaking hashtags or texts in videos – eg typing d1s0rder instead of clutter.
“While this experience does not reflect the experience most people have on TikTok, one person with this experience is too much of an experience,” a TikTok spokesperson said.
They added that “content that promotes, normalizes or glorifies disordered eating is prohibited.”