The E.U. is getting a depersonalized TikTok algorithm. The rest of the world wants it as well.

By 08/14/2023
The E.U. is getting a depersonalized TikTok algorithm. The rest of the world wants it as well.

As TikTok brings new choices to the For Your Page in European Union territories, users in other regions are saying “Why not me?” Campaigners in the U.K. are lobbying TikTok in hopes of gaining access to an updated feed that eschews personalized recommendations in favor of more generalized content.

TikTok’s attempt to depersonalize its addictive For You Page is part of its response to the Digital Services Act (DSA), an E.U. law that attempts to heighten user protections on social media and online video platforms. Companies that fail to meet DSA standards could face fines or other penalties.

As part of its effort to comply with the DSA, TikTok introduced its opt-in algorithm with a blog post on August 4. Starting “soon,” the app’s E.U. community will have the option to take personalization out of their feed. If they do, their For You Page will feature some videos that are popular in their area and others that are uploaded by accounts they follow.


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Expanded FYP options are good news for TikTok users based in E.U. regions, but in the areas where the Digital Services Act doesn’t apply, the depersonalized feed is no help — at least for now. Center for Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed has argued that TikTok should give all of its users the chance to escape the clutches of the app’s recommendation algorithm. “Given they have already built the functionality, it would be frankly ridiculous if they did not,” Ahmed told The Guardian.

In its research, The Center for Countering Digital Hate found that teenage TikTok users can find suicide and eating disorder content seconds after they start scrolling through their FYPs. For non-E.U. users, those algorithmic suggestions are hard to escape. Scholarly articles have contested that TikTok’s addictive nature has massive implications for the mental health of its community.

A TikTok spokesperson said the app has no plans to bring its depersonalized feed to non-E.U. regions, but users in those countries can use tools like keyword filtering and the “not interested” button to improve the recommendations they receive. Though many social media algorithms operate as black boxes, TikTok has attempted to demystify its controversial engine by openly discussing the factors that determine what you see on your FYP.

Ultimately, the tug-of-war over personalized social media is much bigger than TikTok. As laid out by Wired, this issue is part of a bigger conversation about “cognitive liberty.” By heeding the DSA, TikTok is letting some of its users think for themselves. For the rest of the app’s viewers, the machine still rules for now. TikTok’s total watch time suggests that millions of users are willing to watch a personalized feed — even if they have questions about its invasiveness.

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