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TikTok ramps up ‘suicide and eating disorder content’ quickly after someone joins it: Study

As worries about the effects of social media on mental health increase, researchers have discovered that TikTok’s algorithms are recommending videos about suicide and eating disorders to vulnerable youths minutes after they create an account. In its conclusions, the research by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) on Wednesday asserted that a new TikTok user was exposed to harmful information less than three minutes after opening an account.

While finding information on eating disorders takes an additional five minutes. By setting up eight profiles with a minimum user age of 13, these tests were conducted across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The app then suggested videos on weight loss and self-harm, including those that featured photos of models and idealised body types, images of razor blades, and discussions of suicide. These accounts liked material regarding body image and mental health as a result.

The accounts were given significantly more detrimental information when the researchers made them with user names that implied a specific susceptibility to eating disorders and contained the phrases ‘reduce weight’.  Imran Ahmed, CEO of the CCDH, stated in the study, ‘The results are every parent’s nightmare: young people’s feeds are assaulted with damaging, horrific information that may have a major cumulative impact on their knowledge of the world around them, as well as their physical and mental health’.

Ahmed said, ‘It’s like you’re trapped in a hall of warped mirrors where you’re continuously told you’re unattractive, you’re not good enough, and maybe you should kill yourself’.  The TikTok platform harshly criticised the study, calling it an incorrect representation of the site’s viewing experience. ‘ This action and the experience that follows does not reflect genuine behaviour or watching experiences of real people,’ the TikTok official told CNN.

‘We speak with medical professionals frequently, take action against those who violate our rules, and give anybody in need access to helpful resources. We are committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone, including those who desire to share their personal experiences of recovery or instruct others on these significant subjects, while keeping in mind that triggering information is specific to each individual’.


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