Content Warning: This article about TikTok discusses eating disorders. If you or someone you know is affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673, or chat online.
There’s no denying that TikTok seems to be ruling the world right now. It’s infiltrated the music industry and basically just daily life.
But just because the app is wildly popular doesn’t mean that it isn’t potentially harmful. I mean, we all have Instagram.
That’s why Four Corners and Triple J Hack joined forces to delve deeply into the negative side affects and influences it might be having on its users, in particular, in the area of eating disorders.
And what they found is pretty alarming. According to their investigation – which aired on national television, the TikTok app exposes users to pro-eating disorder content through the ‘For You’ algorithm tailored feed.
On the other hand, the platform also bans content that they consider to be harmful, with their standards leaving many outraged.
During the investigation, a number of TikTok users were interviewed, including QUT researcher Dr Bondy Kaye.
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Dr Kaye said, “What really sets TikTok apart… is just how accurate and how up-to-the-minute this For You page recommender system seems to be.”
“It is very hard to break that cycle, and it’s by design that you never really get to the end of the content.”
In the investigation, two young Australian women who have repeatedly had pro-eating disorder content in their feeds were interviewed.
The investigation spoke with two young Aussie women who had pro-eating disorder content repeatedly appear in their feeds.
One of the users, who is 19 years of age developed an eating disorder four months after downloading the app and setting up an account.
She told Four Corners, “Before TikTok, calorie counting had never crossed my path.”
Another user, 22 years of age who has been in and out of hospital due to an eating disorder told Four Corners that it contributed towards her relapse.
She said, “As I got sicker and I got more obsessive, all I could do was just flick through my phone and look at this footage.”
“I spent hours on it and just fixated on it,” she added.
For more on this topic, follow the Health & Wellness Observer and the Film & TV Observer.
In response to the investigation, TikTok issued a statement to Four Corners, stating their protection policies, including protecting users from harmful content.