CCDH pressured TikTok into action

Posted on January 30, 2024 in Impact stories.

black and red smartphone case

In December 2022, our Deadly by Design report revealed that TikTok’s algorithm pushes eating disorder, self-harm, and suicide content to teens within minutes of joining the platform.

The Campaign

CCDH’s research showed teens are at risk from TikTok’s addictive algorithms. Our #FixTikTok campaign encompassed a groundbreaking report, a Parents’ Guide in partnership with Ian Russell from the Molly Rose Foundation, and the mobilization of hundreds of people calling on TikTok to take action.

We also launched a coalition letter to the Head of Safety at TikTok demanding action on children’s mental health alongside 26+ signatures – including the Molly Rose Foundation, Fairplay for Kids, and the American Psychological Association.

Success: TikTok took action as a result of our report

  • In March 2023, TikTok set teenagers’ screen time to 60 minutes and increased parental controls on the app.
  • Later that month, TikTok began allowing users to ‘refresh’ the ‘For You’ feed, resetting data previously learned by the algorithm.
  • TikTok announced it would form a “Youth Council” to understand teens’ experiences on the platform to improve their safety.
  • Our report was promoted by actor Mark Ruffalo on Twitter.

Policy impact

  • In December 2022, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport responded to the report, stating that the Online Safety Bill would prevent under-18s from being exposed to illegal content online.
  • UK MP Caroline Ansell cited Deadly By Design in the Public Bill Committee session on the Online Safety Bill.
  • The Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza, tweeted about Deadly by Design, raising her concerns about the findings in CCDH’s report.
  • In March 2023, UK MPs used CCDH’s coalition letter to the Head of Safety at TikTok to question the company.
  • A month later, CCDH published new research showing how TikTok’s transparency appeared to be heavily redacted, using this work to advance the Bethell amendment for researcher data access in the UK Online Safety Bill.
  • Our report was cited by US Senator Christ Murphy in his op-ed in The New York Times.
  • CCDH’s TikTok Parents’ Guide was featured in Ofcom’s “Listening to the Experts: Mental Health and Media Literacy” report.

Press impact

  • New York Times: “Young TikTok Users Quickly Encounter Problematic Posts, Researchers Say”
  • CNN: “TikTok may push potentially harmful content to teens within minutes, study finds”
  • The Guardian: “TikTok self-harm study results ‘every parent’s nightmare’”
  • Associated Press: Report: TikTok boosts posts about eating disorders, suicide
  • BBC News: “TikTok sets 60-minute daily screen time limit for under-18s”
  • TechCrunch: “TikTok’s new feature lets you refresh your For You feed and retrain your algorithm”
  • Wall Street Journal: “TikTok feeds teens a diet of darkness”
  • CBS News: “TikTok forming a “Youth Council” to make the platform safer for teens”