The horror of TikTok’s ‘addictive’ algorithm

TikTok understands its users better than themselves. It’s not a psychological trick, it’s just being manipulated by algorithms.

TikTok – “digital oracle”

There is no denying that algorithms know us better than themselves. A computer is said to predict whether you’ll quit or break up, or guess your age by just 1,000 written characters over four years.

TikTok’s algorithm even reaches a higher “realm”, when it can help users discover their true gender or relieve childhood trauma. While Facebook requires users to set up profiles and transfer a huge mountain of personal information, TikTok only needs to rely on algorithms to determine.

TikTok “reads” users by algorithms.

Jess Joho wrote on Mashable that, TikTok is like “reading” users with some kind of divine digital prophecy, discovering open layers inside the mind that you have never known before. If recommendation algorithms from Amazon or Netflix are designed to guess what you want to watch next, TikTok can show you who you really are.

How does TikTok’s algorithm work?

Like any algorithm, TikTok’s “prophecy” is just the end result of parsing iterative sequences. According to a recent investigation by Wall Street Journal, when someone creates a new account on TikTok, the algorithm will recommend popular videos with diverse content, check users’ reactions and synthesize information. All this in less than two hours.

The document “TikTok Algo 101” by TikTok’s engineering team in Beijing details how the TikTok algorithm deeply analyzes human nature – users’ tendency to be bored, sensitive to signals culture, helping to explain why once lost in the “maze” of TikTok, it is very difficult to get out.

The document also says watch time isn’t the only factor TikTok relies on for its analysis, it’s an equation that includes other factors like: likes, comments, and playtime. The recommendation system gives a score to all videos based on this equation and returns the user with the videos with the highest score.

The “dark corners” of the algorithm

Some fear this will have an adverse effect on users’ mental health.

TikTok seems to discover things about users that they don’t necessarily know about themselves, more precisely TikTok shows users what they will put their attention on, which sparks curiosity and even is addictive.

A recent report by Wall Street Journal showed how TikTok depends on the amount of time users spend watching videos each day to analyze and recommend a lot of related content, making it impossible for users to “scroll” down, and that process can sometimes lead to young viewers go to dangerous pits, especially for content that promotes suicide or self-harm – problems TikTok says it is working to prevent by aggressively removing content violate its terms of service.

“Algorithms knew I was bi-sexual before I realized it,” Joho said on Twitter. Mashable. In these moments, TikTok is like a mirror, magnifying and reflecting what we are trying to hide.

The real purpose of TikTok is not psychoanalysis, but profit. “The algorithm is just trying to make you different from other users to get attention, and it will,” said Johannes Eichstaedt, a scientist at the Stanford Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI). make money from it.”

Guillaume Chaslot, founder of Algo Transparency, reviewed the TikTok document and said: “For every view, TikTok acquires a piece of information. In a few hours, the algorithm can detect musical preferences, physical attractiveness, whether the person is depressed or addicted to drugs, and much more sensitive information. There is a high risk that some of this information could be used against the users themselves.”

Revealing the “real person” is still something many people want to discover from the past until now. Only, today, besides therapies like chat, we also rely on algorithms with endless “depth” like TikTok.

Huong Dung(According to Wired, NYT)

Big Tech China dropped out of the top 10, Google was dethroned by TikTok

Big Tech China dropped out of the top 10, Google was dethroned by TikTok

TikTok becomes the most popular domain in 2021; Big Tech China dropped out of the top 10 in the world; ByteDance becomes the world’s most valuable tech unicorn;… are the highlights of this week’s 7th Tech Newsletter.


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