While fans often point to the app’s startling accuracy, TikTok critics occasionally speculate that the company may subtly manipulate its algorithm to influence its users in more nefarious ways.
Now the company is taking new steps to uncover some hidden aspects of its algorithm. The app will offer a feature to “help people understand why a particular video was recommended to them.” With the update, users will have to tap a question mark icon to see some of the factors that play a role in the recommendation.
In a blog post, the company states that its “recommendation system is powered by technical models” and that the feature aims to make “technical details easier to understand.” For now, this also means that the details shared are a bit vague. For example, “this video is popular in the USA” and “You are following Hanna” are some examples of statements made by Tiktok. Other descriptions may also be based on “user interactions such as content you watch, like or share, comments you post, or searches”.
TikTok will explain why it recommends videos on its ‘For You’ page
The company says it plans to add “more detail and transparency” to this feature over time, but disclosures may eventually become more detailed. A TikTok spokesperson said future updates may also include other factors that affect the app’s algorithm, such as the person’s account settings.
While this feature won’t quite appease critics who think TikTok or parent company ByteDance is using the algorithm to manipulate users, it could help make their recommendations a little more understandable to their users. And the change is part of TikTok’s move to prove it’s willing to be more transparent about the inner workings of its app. The company also partnered with Oracle to review its algorithms and content moderation system.