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TikTok’s Algorithm is Scary Smart. Here’s How it Works

TikTok's Algorithm is Scary Smart. Here's What we Found.

TikTok’s Algorithm is Scary Smart. Here’s How it Works

On July 21, the WSJ released an investigative report into TikTok‘s highly secretive algorithm, owned by ByteDance in China. There’s a reason it feels like the app gives you exactly what you’re looking for and even adults (like me) struggle to put it down.

Dare I say – the TikTok algorithm has god-like attributes, able to identify what you like and don’t like within minutes of creating an account.

And while all of us are praising TikTok for their parental controls (they ARE the only social media company with true parental controls), I think we’re ignoring a really, really important attribute of this massively popular app.

That while TikTok is preventing porn, they are sucking the life out of amazing teens with a highly addictive app that is also micro-sexualizing them with “almost porn.” 

We published a 10-panel carousel on Instagram on July 24, and within three days, it was already the fifth most popular post in our history. TikTok is the first non-Facebook app to surpass 3 billion downloads globally. And, based on our most recent testing, it’s not hard to see why.

TikTok Algorithm Instagram Panels:

TikTok Algorithm Panels 1-3 from PYE Instagram

These panels set the stage by explaining a bit about the algorithm. It’s really important to understand that this algorithm is what you read on the third slide. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. The 13-minute WSJ YouTube video that summarizes their findings is really worth a listen/watch.

TikTok Algorithm Panels 4-6 from PYE Instagram

These panels explore the results from the WSJ’s 100+ test accounts and and how scary quick the algorithm “rabbit-holed” the accounts toward content that the account seemed to like. This is similar to what we’ve seen on Instagram, whose algorithm picks up on suicidal tendencies, self-harm, etc. and then funnels similar accounts toward that user: Suicide Porn on Instagram.

TikTok Algorithm Panels 7-9 from PYE Instagram

Here’s our concern – the wonderful, miraculous, highly shapable teenage brain just can’t handle the god-like intelligence of this app. I invite you to open an account and maybe you’ll experience what I did – an inability to shut it off. I could not believe how quickly 90 minutes evaporated from my life as I thumbed through the “For You” feed on TikTok, as it zeroed in on what I liked and funneled more and more of that content my way. I literally couldn’t stop watching.

TikTok Algorithm Panel 10 from PYE Instagram

A final hope that parents who read this don’t overreact and smash the iPhone. After all, if you gave your child TikTok, it’s now up to you to help them figure out how to use it well. Now that you’re informed! You can find The Social Dilemma on Netflix.

If you have a younger child, keep them away from TikTok as long as possible. Get a GABB! They now have an awesome watch. Tap/click the image below to learn more about their kid-friendly “UN”-smart products.

Gabb PYE
Tap/click the image to learn more about Gabb!

About Protect Young Eyes

Founded in 2015, Protect Young Eyes is a leading voice showing families, schools, and churches how to create safer, “no digital secret!” spaces for young people. We do this by creating content that is reliable, practical, and easy to use. Our team of presenters performs hundreds of talks annually and 500+ mini-lessons in the Protect App help busy, amazing families be digital-ready! Available for Apple or Google.

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