TikTok has started rolling out a new feature that will provide users with more insight into why the platform’s algorithms recommended videos in your “For You” feed. With the new feature, users may choose the question-mark symbol named “Why this video” after clicking the share button on the video. TikTok has provided this feature in order for users to get a little more clarity on why a certain video appeared in the feed.
Touching that button, TikTok stated that users will learn more about some of the reasons why a specific video was suggested to them. One of these explanations is “user interactions,” which refers to the content you watch, like, or share as well as the comments you post and the things you search for on the app; another is “accounts you follow or suggested accounts for you;” a third is “content posted recently in your region;” and a fourth is “popular content in your region.”
Similar to other social networks, TikTok uses algorithms to present users with tailored information in an effort to keep them interested and surfing for as long as possible. But most of the time, these algorithms are incomprehensible.
The new feature offers more particular information on individual activity or accounts impacting the algorithmic recommendations but falls short of totally simplifying that mysterious black box – algorithms. However, TikTok stated that it has plans to expand this function in the future with more information. In a blog post, the company assured that “Looking ahead, we’ll continue to expand this feature to bring more granularity and transparency to content recommendations.”
The new change follows growing concern that TikTok’s dynamic algorithm could lure users—especially its youngest ones—down alarming discoveries on subjects like the content on eating disorders and suicide.
It also comes at a time as more state and federal lawmakers put pressure on TikTok as a result of its parent company’s connections to Beijing. The criticism increased earlier this year after a Buzzfeed News investigation reported that some US user data had been frequently viewed from China. One Chinese employee allegedly declared, “Everything is seen in China,” TikTok has however acknowledged that some staff in China have access to US user data.
A group of lawmakers led by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, proposed a bill last week that would forbid TikTok from operating in the US. In a statement introducing the new proposal, Rubio slammed TikTok as a “CCP [Chinese Communist Party]-puppet company” and accused the app of gathering data to “manipulate feeds.”
For years, TikTok and the US government have been negotiating a potential agreement that would resolve national security issues while allowing the service to continue serving US users. Additionally, TikTok has taken precautions to keep US user data separate from other aspects of its business.
In an effort to address rising fears and concerns, TikTok has made a number of announcements in recent years, including the release of tools to help users customize content recommendations, the introduction of parental controls to limit what kids can access on the app, and a commitment to greater transparency regarding its content moderation systems for researchers.