How is TikTok Recommending Profiles?

Marc Faddoul is an artificial intelligence researcher, who just recently joined TikTok. When he did, he found the recommendations section a bit odd. He said that the profiles that were suggested he follow seemed to look very similar to the profile picture of the first account.

For example, if he followed a young-looking blonde woman, he would get recommendations for other young-looking blonde women to follow.

Faddoul works at the University of California Berkeley and wants to know above all else how TikTok works, and why it’s so popular among teens. This is why he began with a brand new account instead of an aged TikTok account, that wasn’t linked to any other profiles he already had on the internet.

When he began to follow other accounts, he found that the profile pictures of the accounts recommended to him were very similar to the profile picture of the initial page.

This means that if he followed black men, he would get suggestions for more black men. Following white men with beards? Recommendations to follow more white men with beards. The list goes on.

FACE-BASED FITLER BUBBLES

And while Faddoul’s experience can’t be used as a scientific study because it’s just one person’s experience, there were others who did the exact same thing, which produced similar results.

At this point, though, it’s worth noting that at least one person commented on Faddoul’s findings on Twitter to say that they hadn’t received the same experience with their recommendations.

A lot of the time, social media platforms build algorithms for recommendations based on the existing interests of the user. However, just like with anything, these can have unintended consequences and create a filter bubble.

This results in highly personalized content that isolates you from everything else. While there’s currently no evidence of anything sinister about TikTok’s recommendations, it’s definitely worth thinking about, as Faddoul’s results can be considered strange.

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