At the mercy of the TikTok algorithm?

In this article for the Markup, Dara Kerr offers an interesting insight in the plight of TikTok’ers who try to earn a living on the platform. TikTok’s algorithm, or how it decides what content gets a lot of exposure, is notoriously vague. With ever changing policies and metrics, Kerr recounts how difficult it is to build up and retain a following on the platform. This vagueness does not only create difficulty for creators trying to monetize their content, but also leaves more room for TikTok to suppress or spread content at will.

TikTok has often been accused of intervening more directly with users’ content, targeting specific groups. Notably, there are many examples of TikTok actively censoring anti-chinese content. Further, Black content was suppressed during Black Lives Matters protests in the summer of 2020, for which TikTok apologised. Another example is where TikTok moderators were told to suppress content by ‘ugly people’ to attract new users. Kerr explains how one of the main ways in which the platform can suppress content is by ‘shadowbanning’, where a user does not see anything different but their content just has no reach. Despite all these controversies, Kerr shows us how people keep chasing the fame the platform promises. As explained by TikTok’er Oyelowo: “With algorithms, in theory, there is a potential solution, there is a way to figure it out—everybody is chasing that pot of gold in some way. But it’s a moving target.”

See: Shadow Bans, Dopamine Hits, and Viral Videos, All in the Life of TikTok Creators at the Markup.

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