TikTok planning to add reasoning for recommended videos

Tech

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

(The Hill) — TikTok is planning to add its reasoning for why videos are recommended for users as part of a push for transparency amid rising scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and state governments.

The company said in a post on Tuesday it is rolling out a new tool in the upcoming weeks to add context to the content that is recommended in users’ “For You” feeds.

It said the system recommends content based on a variety of factors from a user’s activity on the app and adjusts for what they indicate they are not interested in. 

The tool will allow users to press the “share” button to reveal a menu with a question mark icon called “Why this video.” Pressing the icon will reveal the reasons the video was recommended, such as explaining a video is based on a user’s interactions, is from an account they follow or is suggested for them, is content posted recently in their region or is content that is popular in their region. 

“This feature is one of many ways we’re working to bring meaningful transparency to the people who use our platform, and builds on a number of steps we’ve taken towards that goal,” the company said. 

TikTok noted it publishes tools to help customize recommendations and educational resources that explain how the recommendations work. It said TikTok will look to expand its feature to bring more transparency to recommendations.

The move comes as at least 10 Republican governors have issued executive orders to ban TikTok on state-owned devices and wireless networks based on concerns that the Chinese government may be able to access users’ personal information from the app, whose parent company is based in Beijing.

A bill to ban the app from federal government devices is also advancing after it unanimously passed in the Senate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week she supported including it in the omnibus government funding bill that Congress must pass this week to avoid a government shutdown.

A TikTok spokesperson told The Hill last week after a few more states banned the app on government devices that the claim that TikTok would share user data with the Chinese government is “categorically false” and said the company is working with the federal government to strengthen its data protection policies. 

“We’re disappointed that so many states are jumping on the bandwagon to enact policies based on unfounded, politically charged falsehoods about TikTok,” they said. 

Lawmakers have also introduced a bill to ban TikTok in the United States entirely.

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