TikTok is giving users of the popular app more controls over the kinds of videos they see in their feed — including flagging videos with “mature or complex themes” intended for viewers 18 and older.
TikTok’s Community Guidelines detail categories of content that is banned by the platform, including nudity, pornography and sexually explicit content. Within those policies, “we understand that people may want to avoid certain categories of content based on their personal preferences,” Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, wrote in a blog post about the new features. “Or, for our teenage community members, some content may contain mature or complex themes that may reflect personal experiences or real-world events that are intended for older audiences.”
Over the next few weeks, TikTok plans to introduce an early version of a new system to label content based on thematic maturity — conceptually similar to film and TV industry ratings, according to Keenan. That is being designed to “help prevent content with overtly mature themes from reaching audiences between ages 13-17.” Officially, TikTok requires users to be at least 13 to access the app.
When TikTok’s system detects that a video contains mature or complex themes — such as “fictional scenes that may be too frightening or intense for younger audiences,” Keenan wrote — a “maturity score” will be assigned to the video to help prevent those under 18 from viewing it on TikTok.
“We have focused on further safeguarding the teen experience first, and in the coming months we plan to add new functionality to provide detailed content-filtering options for our entire community so they can enjoy more of what they love,” Keenan added.
TikTok also is rolling out a tool that will let user automatically filter out videos with specific keywords or hashtags they don’t want to see from their For You or Following feeds. Users can already use TikTok’s “not interested” feature to automatically skip videos from a specific creator or those that use a specific audio clip.
TikTok’s For You feed is algorithmically generated, based in a variety of data points, such as a user’s likes, follows and videos watched. The app uses that to show people other videos they might be interested in, similar to the way streaming services like Netflix or Spotify suggest new artists or movies based on their content consumption.
In addition, TikTok has been testing ways to avoid recommending a series of similar content on topics that may be “problematic” if viewed repeatedly, such as topics related to dieting, extreme fitness, sadness and other well-being topics, according to Keenan. Based on TikTok’s tests in the U.S., the app has “improved the viewing experience so viewers now see fewer videos about these topics at a time,” he added.
“We want to play a positive role in the lives of the people who use our app, and we’re committed to fostering an environment where people can express themselves on a variety of topics, while also protecting against potentially challenging or triggering viewing experiences,” Keenan wrote.
TikTok, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, last year said it has more than 1 billion monthly users. Recently, some U.S. lawmakers have renewed concerns about TikTok’s China ties, over fears that data on American users could be accessed by the Chinese government.