TikTok is a new and upcoming social media which is also very popular amongst users 24 and under (mostly gen-z). TikTok is a platform where users can share videos that range from 8 seconds to 60 seconds long. The apps whole goal is to keep users scrolling through content for as long as possible so every user’s feed is catered and personally made for them using machine learning! This means no two users will ever have the same exact feed on TikTok as the app is constantly studying and learning what content it’s users prefer. If you are not someone who makes content but prefers to just be entertained this is perfect since your feed is catered just for you!
TikTok is also presented to the younger generation as an even playing field where anyone can go viral. This is where the machine learning bias comes in. Some AI researchers have already noticed this and stated that while TikTok may not be doing it intentionally, there is a very clear bias on the platform. To sum up the most important part of the article that I wanted to share, basically, the TikTok algorithm studies what it’s users watch and catches its users into this loop where they will constantly be recommending identical content. To quote Marc Faddoul, the researcher from the article that I will link below, he states, “If most popular influencers are, say, blond, it’s will be easier for a blond to get followers than for a member of an underrepresented minority. And the loop goes on…” This is a very clear machine learning bias as this suppresses diverse creators’ ability to succeed on the app and leaves TikTok as an uneven playing field since the algorithm has learned that some videos are more likely to go viral (after studying the popular creators) while this is untrue. Technically, video virality does not matter on who is creating the content but rather what the content is and this algorithm bias could be holding back videos that have just as much potential to go viral as other videos.
Additionally, the article did not talk about echo chambers but due to TikTok’s repetitive and catered algorithm, I believe that users can get caught into their own echo chambers since they will only be shown other users who are very similar to themselves, thus sharing many of the same beliefs. In fact, there is a trend on TikTok right now where teens are creating videos stating “if this TikTok ends up on your feed, it is because you are _____”. Showing that the algorithm is so precise and analyzes its users and content so well that it will be matched up to the right people, and by “right people” I mean people very similar to you specifically. Therefore, I believe that compared to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter you are more likely to get caught within an echo chamber on TikTok since the algorithm will constantly only feed you content from creators that share your political beliefs/world views/etc.
Source 1, Racial Bias: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurenstrapagiel/tiktok-algorithim-racial-bias
Source 2, Filter Bubbles: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/tiktok-filter-bubbles