On TikTok, viral videos aren’t so much internet magic

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According to the US magazine Forbes, TikTok employees can highlight videos themselves with a button.

TIKTOK – The TikTok platform is known for its algorithm which always succeeds (or almost) in displaying user-friendly videos in the famous “For You” thread. But this accuracy is not only due to a algorithm.

This Thursday, January 20, the American magazine Forbes discovered that the employees of TIK Tok themselves can highlight videos using the “warm” (or “boost”) button. According to MEDIAan internal document reports that this increased content amounts to 1 or 2% of total daily views.

A not-so-secret practice

TikTok has never hidden this “booster” system. There is even a document that regulates its use. It says employees can use it to “ attract influencers “and for” promote different content “.

This is explained by spokesperson Jamie Favazza “Only very few US-based employees have the ability to approve content promotion. This represents 0.002% of the videos in the “For You” feed. “.

Moreover, it is not the only social network that uses this practice. Google and Facebook also highlight some publications, but inform users of their nature. This happened, for example, when social networks (including TikTok) partnered with public health organizations to share important information about Covid-19.

That said, employees and former employees of the platform have confessed this Forbes that this practice has also been used to benefit. In particular highlighting the content of influencers and brands to the detriment of others. The goal is to attract these accounts to get partnerships.

In addition, “boost” was hijacked by some employees. Three sources discovered for Forbes that some people have emphasized their own content or even that of their loved ones. The shift apparently allowed a personal account to gain 3 million views.

Bad revelations

Overall, this revelation is ill-timed for TikTok. The United States and Europe are increasingly wary of the app, and for good reason: almost a month ago, ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) admitted to spying on journalists while the platform claimed it needed user data to provide more relevant content.

The fact that the platform is Chinese raises particular questions in terms of moderation and censorship. RFI reports that some information about the Uyghur people, suppressed by the Chinese government, quickly disappeared from TikTok.

Now under the radar, TikTok is trying to promote an image of transparency. Recently, the platform announced that it is working on a new feature. This would allow users to understand why this or that video is recommended to them (“Why this video”). Asked about ” heating “, the firm only made a point to specify that it continues to develop the recommendation functionality.

See also in HuffPost :

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