TikTok’s algorithm likely helped an anti-Semitic song go viral before it was taken down, racking up over 6 million views in a matter of days.
TikTok recently found itself under the spotlight again, after it was accused of helping to promote an anti-Semitic song, featuring a giant robot scorpion bearing a swastika symbol. The viral video spread through the popular social media platform in just a few days, garnering millions of views in the process. With India already having banned TikTok, the recent incident isn’t exactly helping the popular app’s image in other countries.
TikTok has proven to be a highly popular, yet, controversial app in 2020. While the app itself has led the way in terms of downloads, accumulating more than two billion at last count, many have criticized the video service, and for various reasons. At one level, there’s the content on the platform that, for a long time, has been accused of lacking effective moderation. While at another level, there has been routine criticisms that the app collects too much data and has too many links to China.
Many TikTok users were exposed to an anti-Semitic song, and the video resulted in other TikTok users releasing similar content, spreading the sensitive subject even further. Given how TikTok’s algorithm operates, it’s likely that the song’s viral proliferation was the result of the algorithm’s tendency to automatically promote videos that gain momentum. According to a BBC report, the company addressed the issue by taking down all instances of the video, with a company spokesperson stressing that keeping users safe is the service’s “top priority.” However, that didn’t stop certain groups from criticizing TikTok for not taking action quicker and ensuring fewer people were exposed to the content. Campaign Against Antisemitism director Stephen Silverman pointed out to the BBC how it’s TikTok’s obligation to remove such content expeditiously, especially as the social media platform specializes in delivering content to younger users.
TikTok’s Influence Made Damage Control Even Harder
This isn’t the first time that TikTok has been accused of suspicious activity as an anonymous software engineer recently claimed that the company collects too much data. However, the recent incident serves as a reminder that the influential social media platforms are still lacking in sufficient precautions to preventing sensitive content from spreading as quickly as it can. This is even more the case with TikTok specifically, due to the viral nature of the platform in general. While the video was eventually removed, that doesn’t change the fact that it took TikTok days before that happened, or that in the time, it had already accumulated millions of views.
Further adding to the issue is that users were able to so quickly upload similar versions before the problem was eventually mitigated. Again, while other platforms suffer in similar respects, it was the speed at which content typically moves on TikTok that made the situation all the worse on this occasion. As well as the fact that TikTok tends to more heavily appeal to younger demographics, compared to other social media services.
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