TikTok Affirms That Its Staff Can Decide What Gets Viral

Devina Aurelia . January 26, 2023

Picture: BBC

Techspace - The capacity of some of TikTok's US workers to promote videos in order to "bring famous and rising artists to the TikTok community" has been confirmed by the company to Forbes. The claim is made as part of an article regarding TikTok's "Heating" button, which Forbes claims may be used to add chosen movies to users' For You pages, helping to increase views by avoiding the algorithm that is allegedly responsible for the TikTok experience.

According to an internal TikTok document dubbed MINT Heating Playbook, "the heating function refers to boosting videos into the For You feed through operator involvement to accomplish a specified number of video views." "The total video views of hot videos account for a considerable fraction of the daily total video views, around 1-2%, which can have a major influence on overall core metrics," the statement reads.

According to Jamie Favazza, a representative for TikTok, heating is caused by more than just the number of views a specific video receives. He added that TikTok would "push some videos to help vary the content experience" (i.e., make sure just a few trends are featured in your feed). Favazza claims that only ".002% of videos in For You feeds" are heated, which is another indication that TikTok doesn't do it very frequently," Forbes was able to get an internal document that claims otherwise.

Heated videos don't include a mark indicating that they have been promoted by TikTok like advertisements or sponsored posts do. As opposed to that, they resemble any other films that the algorithm might have chosen for you.

The information is not entirely unexpected. Since years, there have been rumors that TikTok utilized the promise of sponsored content to persuade businesses and politicians to use its platform. Businesses, particularly those in the music industry, have been open about utilizing the site to promote their products. This implies that some influencers and brands—those with whom TikTok has tried to do business—may have benefited from heating at the expense of others.

Evelyn Douek, a professor at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said, "We think of social media as being tremendously democratizing and allowing everyone the same opportunity to reach an audience." But she emphasized that wasn't always the case. "To some extent, the same outdated power structures are reproducing themselves in social media as well, where the platform may determine winners and losers to some extent, and commercial and other sorts of partnerships take advantage."

Furthermore, TikTok is not the only social media platform that artificially boosts video views. According to reports, Facebook knew it was displaying false view counts but delayed fixing it in order to draw advertisers and media businesses to its platform. (It ultimately paid $40 million to resolve a lawsuit about the matter.) Although it isn't exactly the same situation—TikTok videos do tend to gain genuine views, even if they aren't going viral organically—the outcome—people believing they will perform better on TikTok than they actually will—could be comparable.


PIcture: NPR

It implies that TikTok is selecting winners and losers: brands and creators might have their place on someone's For You page taken by someone with a closer connection to the firm. Forbes claims that there have been instances where employees promoted videos from friends, business partners, and even their own accounts by heating up stuff that they shouldn't have.

TikTok's lack of openness regarding heating makes it difficult to determine which videos reached the top naturally, therefore creators may lose interest in the platform if their videos perform poorly in comparison to those that are being pushed. 

Additionally, Heating demonstrates that, at least occasionally, videos on the For You tab aren't there because TikTok believes you'll enjoy it; rather, TikTok places them there to help a specific company or creator gain more views. And it's impossible to distinguish between sponsored content and advertisements without labeling like those used for them.

The report comes as TikTok faces intense competition from platforms like Instagram, which is pushing to pay creators for Reels, and YouTube, which initially announced enticing creators by granting them a cut of ad revenue made off Shorts (though the latter admitted on Friday that it's recently been pushing video too hard). In the meanwhile, TikTok's limited ad-sharing approach and selected creators fund could give its rivals an advantage.

Employees have also abused heating privileges. The use of heating improperly by employees has been reported by three individuals to Forbes; one of them claimed that employees have been found to heat their own as well their spouses' accounts in violation of the company's regulations. According to documents Forbes reviewed, staff have heated both their own accounts and the accounts of people they are close to. One paper claims that a similar heating issue resulted in an account obtaining more than three million views.

Regarding whether its Chinese-based staff have ever heated content or whether TikTok has ever heated video created by the Chinese government or state media, the business declined to comment.

Read also:

TikTok CEO Attempt to Convince EU About App’s Safety and Privacy

Mark Zuckerberg Admits Failed Facing TikTok

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