TikTok is introducing new ways for you to manage your For You page
TikTok is beginning to give users more control over their For You page. The company announced today that you will be able to specify specific words or hashtags that you do not want to see in your feeds, and the app will filter them out automatically. TikTok’s examples are fairly simple, such as when you’ve completed a renovation and no longer want to see DIY videos, or when you decide you don’t want to see cooking tutorials using a specific type of food or meat. However, these filters could be used to much more precisely control your feed.
In addition, the platform is introducing two new automated moderation and filtering tools. One, known as Content Levels, ranks content based on “thematic maturity” and is intended to prevent mature content of all kinds from being shown to young users. (TikTok likened it to the rating systems found in movies and video games.) The other tries to identify videos that are fine one at a time but problematic in large quantities — dieting fads, depression-related content, and so on — and avoid showing them to users repeatedly. TikTok has been working on this for some time and is now ready to launch it.
TikTok’s bread and butter are these kinds of automatic tools, and the platform has mostly resisted giving users fine-grained tools for controlling the content they see (or don’t see). Even the app’s layout reflects its priorities: while you can swipe to the Following feed, the For You page is where TikTok’s remarkable algorithm can simply tell you what you like. The more TikTok can be an app you open and swipe instead of one that assigns homework, the better.
That’s a difficult position to be in, especially as younger users adopt the app and problematic types of content gain popularity. This is something that every social app struggles with: understanding how users interact with and experience content, as well as how to measure success beyond views and likes. In reality, we still don’t know much about TikTok’s health effects.
We still don’t have a “please enter me into #gardeningtok” button, and TikTok still has questions about the content it recommends, but it’s nice to see TikTok giving users more control over their own feeds. For a while, the app has had a “Not Interested” button, which you can use to stop seeing videos from a specific user or those that use a specific sound. Adding hashtag filters is a logical next step, similar to what other social platforms have done.
Currently, the word-based filters only look at video descriptions and text-based stickers. But, in theory, they could become much more powerful in the future: captions are a core feature of TikTok, and its automatic captions are typically quite good, so the platform could begin to more deeply understand the content of its videos simply by having their transcripts. For the time being, you may only be able to filter out individual words, but as machine learning and language models improve, that feature may become more sophisticated. That same effort will benefit the rest of TikTok’s moderation efforts as well. The more it understands its content as well as its audience, the better it can tailor the experience. But neither is simple to understand.
TikTok’s new features will be available “in the coming weeks,” according to the company.