TikTok will change For You recommendations to avoid ‘repetitive patterns’


TikTok is planning some major changes to the For You page (FYP), the app’s home screen. It will tweak the algorithm that fills FYP with an endless stream of videos to avoid showing too much of the same type of content.

“As we continue to develop new strategies to interrupt repetitive patterns, we’re looking at how our system can better vary the types of content that may be featured in a series,” TikTok wrote in a blog post. “That’s why we’re testing ways to avoid recommending a range of similar content — such as about extreme dieting or fitness, grief or breakup — to avoid watching too much of a category of content that might be fine as a single video, but problematic if viewed in clusters.”

The service is also working on a way to identify when the algorithm is only showing a limited number of types of videos by a user. It notes that while videos about loneliness or weight loss may not violate the platform’s rules, these types of videos can negatively impact if they make up the bulk of what a user sees on the For You page. So it’s important to avoid that.

“Our goal is for each person’s For You feed to include a wide variety of content, creators, and topics,” TikTok said, noting that too many similar videos in the feed don’t reflect the kind of experience it aims to promote. The service consults with the Content Advisory Board and the community, as well as experts in medicine, clinical psychology and AI ethics.

In addition, TikTok is developing an option that allows users to block videos associated with certain words or hashtags on the For You page. That gives them more control over what they see on the home screen.

The FYP recommendation algorithm is TikTok’s secret sauce and one of the main reasons the app became incredibly popular. The app’s systems track users’ engagement habits, such as how long the screen stays on a particular piece of content and the videos someone likes, to determine what types of videos could keep them hooked on the FYP.

During an October Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the effect of social media on children and teens, senators urged representatives from TikTok, Youtube and Snap on several issues. One was how their algorithms might promote content on things like eating disorders and self-harm.

TikTok’s latest announcement may help allay lawmakers’ concerns. The platform notes that it will take some “time and iteration” to make these changes to systems and tools and to get them right.

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