June 13, 2023
TikTok have revolutionised the way we consume and create content. With its short video format and algorithmic recommendations, TikTok has gained immense popularity, captivating millions of users worldwide. However, behind the scenes, there lies an ethical dilemma: the power that TikTok employees hold in deciding which videos go viral. In this blog post, we will delve into the question of whether it is ethical for TikTok employees to have such influence over content visibility.
The Algorithm and Its Power:
TikTok's success largely rests on its algorithm, which employs artificial intelligence to curate and recommend videos to users. The algorithm takes into account various factors such as user engagement, watch time, and interaction to determine which videos are likely to resonate with viewers. However, TikTok's algorithm is not entirely autonomous. TikTok employees have the ability to manually intervene and boost the visibility of certain videos, effectively propelling them to viral status.
The Ethical Considerations:
Transparency and Disclosure:
One of the primary concerns with TikTok's viral video selection process is the lack of transparency. Users are largely unaware that TikTok employees have the power to manipulate what they see. This raises questions about the platform's integrity and the authenticity of content that gains popularity. Ethical considerations demand transparency, so users can make informed decisions about the content they consume and creators can understand how their work is being evaluated.
Bias and Manipulation:
The subjective judgment of TikTok employees introduces the possibility of bias and manipulation. What criteria do they use when selecting videos to promote? Are there any underlying motivations or external influences involved? If certain content creators or themes consistently receive preferential treatment, it could create an unfair advantage and hinder diversity of voices on the platform. This potential bias raises concerns about the platform's objectivity and fairness in promoting content.
Impact on Creators:
TikTok's viral video selection process directly affects content creators' success and visibility. The power of TikTok employees to determine which videos go viral can make or break a creator's career. While it is true that an algorithm alone cannot guarantee fairness, it is essential to strike a balance that ensures diverse and quality content has a fair chance to succeed. When employee intervention becomes the primary factor in determining virality, it could discourage creators and limit their creative freedom.
Responsibility and Accountability:
As a platform with billions of users, TikTok has a responsibility to uphold ethical standards and ensure its impact on society remains positive. By allowing employees to manually influence video visibility, TikTok assumes the role of a gatekeeper of information, shaping trends and narratives. With such power comes the need for accountability and safeguards against potential misuse.
Finding a Middle Ground:
Balancing the autonomy of an algorithm with human intervention is a challenging task. TikTok should strive to develop and communicate clear guidelines for employee intervention, ensuring fairness and transparency. Regular audits and third-party oversight can help to maintain accountability and minimise bias in the selection process. Additionally, involving users in the decision-making process through features such as voting or community-driven recommendations can democratise the platform and foster a sense of empowerment.
The ethical implications of TikTok employees deciding what videos go viral cannot be ignored. Transparency, fairness, and accountability are crucial in maintaining the trust of users and creators alike. While TikTok's algorithm has undoubtedly transformed the social media landscape, it is essential for the platform to strike a balance that preserves the integrity of content and empowers creators. By addressing the ethical concerns surrounding employee intervention, TikTok can pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive digital environment.