Is TikTok promoting anti-LGBTQ content? App can find if users are homphobic and cater to their biases: Report

'Explicitly anti-LGBTQ videos are not only flourishing but being fed directly to users,' says researcher Olivia Little about TikTok

                            Is TikTok promoting anti-LGBTQ content? App can find if users are homphobic and cater to their biases: Report
Representational photo of TikTok app (Getty Images)

An investigative report by Media Matters has unearthed how TikTok covertly promotes homophobic and transphobic content, thereby inciting violence in real life. It was found how the app's algorithm identifies a user's interests, identities, and even biases - thereby directing them more towards the content of their choice, which is often homophobic or anti-trans. "Anti-LGBTQ content not only slides under TikTok’s radar but seems to be actively promoted by the company’s algorithm," researcher Olivia Little stated in the Media Matters report. 

The Chinese social networking platform owned by ByteDance issued a ban on hate speech in October 2020. However, a report by GLAAD found that the process is still not foolproof and incomplete while the app also has certain internal biases. For example, the shadow banning of LGBTQ hashtags altogether has been done in a bid to counter anti-LGBTQ content. Little further mentioned in her report, "The reality is that even though TikTok claims to prohibit discriminatory and hateful content, explicitly anti-LGBTQ videos are not only flourishing but being fed directly to users."


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Is TikTok promoting homophobia?

In the past also, TikTok's algorithm has come under the scanner for reportedly promoting far-right extremist content and easily directing interested users towards dangerous extremist movements as well. 

The latest report cracks down on the homophobia and anti-trans sentiments lurking deep within the app's content pool. "When you open TikTok and land in your For You feed, you're presented with a stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love. This feed is powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user," explained Olivia Little. 

To test the theory, the Media Matters team experimentally liked anti-LGBTQ videos. Soon, they were being recommended for more such offensive content by TikTok. "As we liked similar videos, the “For You” page became progressively tailored to almost exclusively anti-LGBTQ content. In each case, this content was placed on the “For You” page and required no additional searching," stated the report.

The researchers came across shocking videos by TikTokers including ones directly attacking LGBTQ community saying "Y'all need to be ended asap" or "dead trans mfs be like was/were". They were even videos celebrating homophobia which said "only homophobic ppl follow me."

Since the report was published by Media Matters, many TikTok users have opened up about their personal experiences with similar content and agreed in most parts with the report. 

"Like TikTok is so homophobic in the comments, and I always see bullshit saying “there’s only two genders” on my fyp it’s disgusting," a user wrote. Another user agreed, "TIKTOK has to be the most racist/ homophobic app ever." "Dump it ... TikTok is promoting homophobic and transphobic content," another user tweeted.




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