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Concerns Raised Over Eating Disorder Related Content On TikTok

Young and vulnerable TikTok users have reported seeing weight loss related content being promoted without use of the appropriate trigger warnings. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.

Young people, parents and experts are becoming increasingly concerned about a reported rise in harmful weight loss videos being created, shared and promoted on TikTok.

In addition to these concerns, TikTok has also come under fire regarding pro-anorexia and ‘thinspo’ videos being promoted as recommended content for young and vulnerable users on their platform.

Eating disorder experts have warned of a potential rise in negative or harmful behaviors as a result of vulnerable users being triggered by weight loss content online. Users of the platform have reported seeing weight loss content being recommended through their ‘For You’ page, which uses algorithms designed to promote content based on your personal data and previous videos you have watched.

“These videos depict potentially harmful content that has the ability to reinforce negative feelings, attitudes and behaviors in relation to body image, food and diet – to a vulnerable youth audience.”

Amelia Trinick, National Eating Disorder Support Helpline

Many social media companies have experienced similar problems, including Yahoo, Instagram, Tumblr and Reddit, who have all taken steps to remove harmful pro-anorexic content and implement policies to support users who are affected by eating disorders.

Eating disorder support group, the Butterfly Foundation reported an increase in calls to their helpline since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and spoke of the unique challenges and potential triggers that people living with eating disorders face online and how they have been affected by the lockdown.

TikTok have commented that it is highly unlikely that anyone not viewing content related to dieting would be served one of these recommended videos and that each user also has access to filtering and blocking tools that enable them to tailor their content and recommendations.

“TikTok was built to provide a positive place for creativity, and we prioritize the safety and wellbeing of our users. We care deeply about the complex and multi-faceted issue of eating disorders, and are focused on expanding our partnerships, building upon our product, policies and protective measures to provide additional in-app resources for this community. Content that supports or encourages eating disorders is strictly against our Community Guidelines and will be removed.”

Spokesperson, TikTok

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