TikTok, while providing entertainment for millions of people, has, unfortunately, become the platform for people with unhealthy food habits. And health advocates are alarmed.
The BBC News reports that many videos on TikTok, whose majority of users are aged between 16 and 24, glamorize eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia.
TikTok in response said that its priority is the safety and wellbeing of its users. The company has since encouraged users to report content they find inappropriate, particularly those glorifying unhealthy food habits.
While TikTok's response had been swift, eating disorder advocates on Beat said that the company should double its efforts of moderating content and remove harmful videos immediately.
"We'd advocate for real people to search the platform and to highlight and take down the harmful content," Beat's director of external affairs Tom Quinn said.
Among the harmful videos posted on TikTok are those of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia groups. These communities have been around since the earliest days of the internet and sadly still exist. Pro-Ana promotes the eating disorder anorexia, while Pro-Mia refers to those who advocate for bulimia.
The thing about TikTok is that users don't have to search for content -- it shows up on For You. everyone is welcome to make and post videos, leaving a lot of room for shady weight loss or diet advice. With this, Pro-Ana and Pro Mia videos can show up at any time.
James Downs, an eating disorder advocate believes that it is "threatening" to use TikTok due to its vague way of presenting content. He added that if we're protecting the youth from harmful physical environments, we should also protect them from the "dangers in our digital environments."
TikTok has advised its users for the time being to put restrictions on what content they want to show up on their feed. However, the company did not mention of any mass removal of videos glamorizing eating disorders.
Due to the ongoing controversy of the way TikTok manages the content on its platform, it published a blog post discussing how its algorithm works. The company also laid out tips so users can personalize their For You page.
Like YouTube, the way content appears on one's feed depends on the user's interaction in the app. To avoid seeing videos you believe are harmful, do not like or comment on these content creators and report their page. This will inform TikTok about the content you don't want to see.