TikTok markets itself as an online platform for entertainment, creativity, and community, but is becoming a space that is more and more toxic and addictive, which can impact the self-image, mental health, well-being of younger users, and risks sending them down rabbit holes of triggering depressive and self-harm-related content. Sign the petition to make TikTok safer.
What’s the problem?
Younger users say that they feel TikTok is toxic and addictive. This means that they are at risk of falling into addictive patterns when using the platform and having harmful content displayed in their “For You” feed. Children and young people who view mental health-related content in TikTok’s feed can also be drawn into seeing more videos promoted in their feed that discuss, romanticise and encourage depressive thoughts, self-harm, and suicide.
TikTok’s privacy-intrusive way of making money tracks everything you do on the platform to collect information about you. With this information, TikTok tries to predict your interests, emotional state, and well-being.
The platform makes these predictions to show you more “personalized” content on your “For You” feed so that you continue to addictively scroll, even if the content is harmful, and so that TikTok can target you with ads and make money. This harmful business model threatens your rights to privacy, health, and freedom of thought. This is why TikTok created its platform to be addictive by design.
TikTok is taking steps to respect the rights of younger users in Europe by not allowing them to be targeted with personalized/behavioural advertisements, but it still allows this in the rest of the world, where the rights of younger users are seemingly less valued.
But they can do better by making this ban global, and by no longer hyper-personalising the ‘For You’ feed by default, and instead letting users choose based on their informed consent with child friendly language if they want a personalised feed in their settings. Where users choose to have personalisation, TikTok should ask them to actively communicate what content they want to see in their ‘For You’ feed, instead of designing their feed through the mass data collection of users’ online activity.
Moreover, for those users that choose personalisation, TikTok must introduce more protections to stop at-risk users from falling into addictive use patterns and rabbit holes of borderline and harmful content – and where these are introduced e.g., daily time limits for minors, make sure that they are actually effective and limit the risk of harm.
What can you do to help?
Sign the petition and tell TikTok to ban all targeted advertising aimed at younger users globally, and to stop hyper-personalizing the ‘For You’ feed by default.