TikTok is testing age restrictions for recommendations from younger users

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta February 8, 2022
Updated 2022/02/08 at 11:57 AM

TikTok is starting to test ways to restrict certain types of content in its app amid an effort to enforce for teenagers. The work is in an early stage, but the company says the goal is to protect younger users from adult content or other potentially inappropriate videos.

TikTok, like other social media apps, has recently faced increased scrutiny over how it handles user safety, particularly for younger children and teens. Last fall, the company’s vice president of public policy hinted that the app was working on new ways to “enjoy content based on age-appropriateness.” Now, the company has shared some more details of what that might look like.

TikTok, long known for its frighteningly accurate recommendation algorithm, is working on features that would be able to rank content based on “content maturity and thematic comfort zones,” according to Tracy Elizabeth, lead policy issues TikTok Global “When the system is fully released, content that we identify as containing overtly mature topics may be restricted to teenagers,” she said during an interview with reporters. “And for content that has less… mature themes, our community members will be able to choose the comfort zones or maturity of content that they prefer to skip or opt for.”

Elizabeth did not elaborate on how the company was determining a video’s maturity level, saying the work was in an “innovation phase”. But she said it could eventually resemble the ratings used for movies, television and video games. “We know there’s family content, teen content, adult content,” she said. “What we’d like to do is … say ‘here it is: you can choose for yourself which category you’re most comfortable with.’” She added that parents can also control these preferences for their children through the settings. from TikTok.

Separately, TikTok is also working on a feature for creators that would let you indicate whether your videos are aimed at adults or younger users. This can help further inform TikTok’s recommendations to ensure that more adult content stays out of the feeds of younger users.

While TikTok is now running a small test of age restrictions, it could still be some time before the features are widely available, and Elizabeth noted that they are still taking shape. “A lot of this we still haven’t decided how we’re going to do it,” she said.

Outside of these features, TikTok an updated set of community guidelines. Under the new rules, TikTok is giving dangerous challenges their own section in an effort to make the policy more visible. The company is also expanding the type of content it bans under its eating disorder policy. The new rules will ban videos that promote “disordered eating” such as extreme calorie counting, short-term fasting, excessive exercise and other “underrecognized signs of a potential problem.”

Finally, TikTok is also updating its rules to explicitly ban “deadnaming, misgendering, or misogyny, as well as content that supports or promotes conversion therapy programs.” The company says it has removed these types of posts in the past, but that the rules were not specifically outlined in its public-facing community guidelines.

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