TikTok extreme diet clips ‘are fuelling eating disorders’ as algorithm bombards image-conscious teenagers, la ricerca suggerisce
Tiktok has been promoting extreme weight-loss videos to teenage users that experts claim could lead to eating disorders, an investigation has found.
Investigative journalists set up a dozen fake profiles registered as 13-year-olds on the video-sharing platform, which recently became the world’s most downloaded app.
They found that within just a few weeks TikTok’s algorithm was inundating the accounts with tens of thousands of dieting posts.
Several recommended consuming only water while some provided tips on how to eat fewer than 300 calories a day and suggested taking laxatives for over-eating.
Other posts showed emaciated girls with protruding bones, a ‘corpse bride diet’ and shamed those who were giving up on getting thin as ‘disgusting’.
Experts have previously warned how the app’s algorithm could send users down rabbit holes of narrow interest – that can lead to potentially dangerous videos.
TikTok has since said it will adjust its recommendation algorithm to avoid showing users too much of the same content – including extreme dieting – to protect their mental well-being.
An investigation found Tiktok has been promoting extreme weight-loss videos to teenage users that experts claim could lead to eating disorders
The Chinese-owned company, whose global monthly users surpassed one billion this year, made the announcement days after being approached by the Wall Street Journal, which carried out the investigation.
In risposta, TikTok said it continues to invest in removing content that violates its rules.
An estimated 1.25million Britons have an eating disorder, according to the charity Beat.
Hope Virgo, a mental health campaigner who has spoken about her eating disorders, said she has seen ‘first hand the impact of social media on young people’ from her work in schools across the UK.
Ha detto al Daily Mail: '[Dieting content] causes so many individuals, both adults and children, to question their bodies, and their daily food decisions.
‘In order to create an environment where eating disorders do not thrive TikTok and other social media sites need to take responsibility and tackle these issues as a matter of urgency.’
Overall more than 32,000 weight-loss videos were sent to the fake profiles from October to this month. Some were shown none.
Chinese-owned TikTok recently became the world’s most downloaded app and its global monthly users surpassed one billion this year
Once TikTok’s algorithms determined they would rewatch the clips, it quickly began providing more, until dieting and fitness content made up more than half their feeds even without it being sought out. Many promoted fasting and offered tips on how to burn stomach fat quickly.
Posts also managed to bypass the app’s monitors by slightly tweaking hashtags or text in videos – for example writing d1s0rder instead of disorder.
A TikTok spokesman said: ‘While this experiment does not reflect the experience most people have on TikTok, even one person having that experience is one too many.’
They added that ‘content that promotes, normalises, or glorifies disordered eating is prohibited’.