Upholding Community Safety while Having Fun on TikTok

We all love seeing the joy, connection, and inspiration that TikTok brings to millions around the world. Fostering an environment where this creative expression thrives, requires prioritizing safety protocols for the TikTok community  moreso for the younger members.

It is for this very reason that TikTok launched a global project aimed at better understanding the young people's engagement with potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes.  The effects and concerns are felt by all – and TikTok wanted  to contribute to a wider understanding of this matter in order to    support teens, parents, and educators effectively.

Worldwide People Survey and  Expert Consultation were undertaken:

• TikTok surveyed more than 10,000 teens, parents, and educators from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, UK, US, and Vietnam. 
• Commissioned Praesidio Safeguarding, an independent safeguarding agency, to write a report that captures key findings and recommendations. The report, written by Dr. Zoe Hilton, Director and Founder of Praesidio Safeguarding can be read here
 • Convened a panel of 12 leading youth safety experts from around the world to review and provide input into Dr. Hilton's report. 
• Partnered with Dr. Richard Graham, a clinical child psychiatrist specializing in healthy adolescent development, and Dr. Gretchen Brion-Meisels, a behavioral scientist specializing in risk prevention in adolescence to guide and advise TikTok.

Learnings on how online challenges and hoaxes are experienced:

Online challenges: Online challenges or dares typically involve people recording themselves doing something difficult, which they share online to encourage others to repeat. The majority are fun and safe, but some promote harmful behaviors including the risk of serious injury.

○ When asked to describe a recent online challenge, 48% of teens said recent challenges they had seen were safe, categorizing them as fun or light-hearted, 32% included some risk but were still safe, 14% were described as risky and dangerous, while 3% of online challenges were described as very dangerous. Just 0.3% of teens said they had taken part in a challenge they categorized as really dangerous.

○ Teens use a range of methods to understand the risks associated with a challenge, such as watching videos of others, viewing comments, and speaking to friends, and 46% said they want "good information on risks more widely" and "information on what is too far."

Suicide and self-harm hoaxes: Some challenges are hoaxes. A hoax is a lie intentionally planted to trick people into believing something that isn't true. The purpose of a malicious hoax is to spread fear and panic.

○ 31% of teens have felt a negative impact of internet hoaxes and, of those, 63% said the negative impact was on their mental health.

○ 56% of parents said they wouldn't mention a hoax unless a teen had mentioned it first, and 37% of parents felt hoaxes are difficult to talk about without prompting interest in them.

TikTok Step Up to Fortify its  Existing Safeguards:

Strengthening  protection efforts

Removing warning videos: The research showed how warnings about self-harm hoaxes  (even if shared with the best of intentions) can impact the well-being of teens.  It affects the youth since the latter often treat  hoaxes as real. While TikTok currently  removes and takes action to limit the spread of hoaxes, it will now start to remove alarmist warnings that can cause harm.  It will allow conversations to take place ---- those that seek to dispel panic and promote accurate information.

Expanding our enforcement measures:

Having strong policies is an important part of TikTok safety strategy. And it's  coupled with strong detection and enforcement measures. The report identifies enforcement as an important focus for all online platforms. TikTok makes use of expanded technology that helps alert its safety teams when there is sudden increase in violating content linked to hashtags.

Offering new resources to support TikTok community

Building on its Safety Center:  A new resource for TikTok Safety Center dedicated to online challenges and hoaxes has been developed. This includes advice for caregivers, so that they in turn  can address the uncertainty they expressed about when discussing this topic with their teens.

Improving  warning labels and PSAs: Should community members attempt to search for content related to challenges or hoaxes, TikTok  worked to improve the language used in its warning labels. And it nudges community members to visit the Safety Center to learn more.