TikTok’s looking to provide more insight into why you’re seeing what you’re seeing in your feed with a new ‘Why Am I Seeing This?’ explainer tool that will provide some of the potential reasons that guide its algorithmic decisions.
As you can see in this sequence, now, in the ‘Share’ menu on any video clip in your feed, you’ll see a new ‘Why this video?’ option in the row beneath your social sharing options. Tap on that and you’ll get a couple of possible reasons as to why that specific video is appearing in your display.
It’s not a full explainer, and as you can see, the prompt notes that the reasons for displaying this specific clip ‘may include’ these qualifiers. But it provides some additional info to help you better understand how TikTok’s algorithm works, and why it thinks you might like this clip.
Meta provides similar for ads, with its ‘Why Am I Seeing This Ad?’ option, which will give you the same kind of generic insight into some of the possible reasons as to how you’re being targeted. Various social apps also provide notes like ‘Because you like [example page]’ when displaying recommended content in-stream, but it’s the first time that TikTok has provided more specific insight, in-app, as to how it’s algorithm functions.
Indeed, in its explainer post, TikTok says that:
“Our recommendation system is powered by technical models, so we tried to make the technical details more easily understandable by breaking down reasons like:
- user interactions, such as content you watch, like or share, comments you post, or searches
- accounts you follow or suggested accounts for you
- content posted recently in your region
- popular content in your region”
I mean, those are no where near how deep TikTok’s algorithms can go, with its system able to very quickly determine your likes and interests, in order to keep feeding you more of the same. But it’s something, and it could help you better understand how your interactions within the app guide what you then see, and are shown in your ‘For You’ feed.
The notes could also help marketers get a better understanding of the drivers of amplification in the app, which may help you better map out your strategic plan.
TikTok’s increasingly keen to provide more transparency, as a means to better ingratiate itself with local authorities. Questions continue to be raised around it’s potential obligations to the Chinese Government, while in the US, many states are now banning the app on Government devices due to concerns that the CCP could be tracking their activity.
Add to this the repeated calls to ban the app entirely at the federal level, and you can see why TikTok would be incentivized to show that there’s no external manipulation going on, that its systems are driven by your individual activity, not some other nefarious process.
Will this help to lessen such concerns? Probably not, but it does provide some more insight for your own usage, and it could help you better understand how it’s ultra-addictive algorithm operates.