There are more and more cases where dangerous and potentially harmful content “gets out” of control and user protection policies on a number of “social media” platforms.
Following the revelations of Frances Haugen about the effects of Facebook and Instagram on young users —with their effects being toxic to teens in a number of cases, including the rise of eating disorders— new facts come to light.
According to a Guardian report, a number of dangerous “hashtags” that promote anorexia are still sought after in the popular video sharing application TikTok; where the corresponding videos have billions of views.
TikTok may not officially allow content that promotes eating disorders, but the situation seems to have escaped the algorithm.
While the platform in 2020 imposed additional restrictions on weight loss ads —following criticism for promoting dangerous diets— and in March launched a program to connect users looking for “hashtags” related to eating disorders, with a helpline; the Guardian study found a number of “hashtags” with the following characteristics:
- Fourteen of these “hashtags” were part of the 22 identified by the “SumOfUs” team in September, as promoting eating disorders on Instagram! More than a month later, they are still active on TikTok!
- Another 11 hashtags —related to eating disorders, which were not on Instagram— also operated on the platform, such as #skinnycheck with 1 million views, # size0 with 1.4 million views and #thighgapworkout with 2.6 million views.
- In addition, many users appeared to have deliberately written popular “hashtags” promoting unhealthy eating, after the bans, to overcome the obstacles of the new regulations! For example, after the platform banned the “hashtag” #thinspo —short for “thinspiration”— users started using #thinspao and # thinsrpø.
- The TikTok search function suggested some of the popular “hashtags” used to bypass censorship; prompting the user to search for “thinspao”, if he simply typed “thin” in the search bar.
- Other seemingly harmless “hashtags” —such as #caloriedefecitsnacks and #weightlossprogress— have dangerous content that encourages users to follow a strict diet and count calories! The simple “hashtag” #skinny has 1.7 billion views and leads to many weight loss videos!
TikTok, compared to Instagram, can actually be more dangerous because of the demographics of its users.
The video app surpassed 1 billion monthly active users in September, 60% of whom are between 16 and 24 years old.
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