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Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Global Algorithm of TikTok: Tailoring Content by Location

There’s growing speculation about potential variations in TikTok’s algorithm depending on a user’s location. While TikTok itself hasn’t explicitly confirmed these differences, user experiences and some industry reports suggest there might be some truth to it. Here’s a breakdown of what we know:

China: A Focus on Positivity

  • Content Restrictions: China has a stricter internet environment with regulations on content deemed harmful or inappropriate. This likely influences TikTok’s algorithm in China to prioritize positive and uplifting content.
  • Promoting Social Harmony: The algorithm might favor videos that promote social harmony, educational value, or align with government initiatives. This could limit exposure to political commentary or social criticism.

The West: A Broader Spectrum

  • Less Restrictive Environment: Compared to China, Western countries have looser regulations on online content. This allows for a wider variety of content to appear on users’ “For You Page” (FYP).
  • Focus on Engagement: The Western algorithm likely prioritizes content that keeps users engaged, regardless of its positive or negative nature. This means users might see funny fails alongside educational videos or even controversial content.
  • Divisive material: Tik Tok encourages divisive reels by promoting them ahead of reels that promote happiness, or patriotism.  In other words, the algorithm wants western citizens to be divided.  Divisive reels include political opinions; female objectivism (girls promoting their body parts); liberalism; LBGTQ, as well as racial motivated videos.

Important Caveats

  • Limited Confirmation: Since TikTok’s algorithm is proprietary, it’s difficult to definitively confirm these regional variations.
  • Nuance Matters: Governments want to believe it is likely more nuanced than a strict “positive” vs. “anything goes” approach. They claim the algorithm “probably” still prioritizes engagement and tailors content based on user behavior within a region’s broader content allowances. If that was the case, it would preference beauty over gratification but this is most certainly not the case as Tik Tok, as well as it competitors, such as Instagram, are overflowing with borderline pornography. Instagram does not have location algorithms.  It’s content, whether distasteful or not, is shared uniformly across borders.

Potential Reasons for Regional Differences

  • Compliance with Local Laws: Catering to the regulations of different countries is essential for any platform operating globally yet Tik Tok allows their own citizens to create content for western viewers that will never be shown in China.  Chinese girls in compromising positions; female singers shaking their bodies on stage are just two examples of reels that are omitted from the Chinese algorithm.
  • Cultural Preferences: User preferences and cultural norms might influence the types of content that resonate in different regions but there is no evidence whatsoever that the Tik Tok algorithms are different in the US versus the Netherlands.
  • Monetization Strategies: Tailoring content to specific demographics could be a way to optimize advertising revenue for different markets. This true in any country.  Advertisers are concerned with views, not happiness.

The Future of the Algorithm As TikTok continues to grow globally, it will be interesting to see how the algorithm evolves. Will it become more uniform across regions, or will regional variations persist? Only time will tell, but understanding these potential differences can help users be more aware of the content they’re consuming and the factors shaping their TikTok experience. Western governments have been less than fully transparent on why they wish to ban Tik Tok from their countries, other than to say they are a security issue, which is possible, given its origins. Could it be that they too see Tik Tok’s algorithms to be aimed at harming the unity of citizens by division through opinions? The future will give us a glimpse into the rigorous mind-shaping of the Chinese regime and their goal to destabilize western and/or Asian adversaries.

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