TikTok, the social media platform with over 1.1 billion global users, is changing, or at least for Europeans. Earlier this month, TikTok announced that it would soon be giving users within its European community “another way to discover content on TikTok” by giving users the option to turn off personalisation on its platform.

The hyper-personalisation of TikTok has been a huge factor in the platform’s remarkable success. Personalisation on TikTok, and other social media platforms, is made possible through the use of algorithms which identify the types of content that generate user engagement. Having identified what the user is interested in, the platform then feeds this back to the user through a personalised feed such as TikTok’s For You page. If you have ever experienced that strange feeling that your phone knows everything about you, it is probably because the algorithm (almost) does.

Hyper-personalisation of content has proven to be an incredibly successful business model for the world’s social media giants, taking the idea of giving the customer what they want to the extreme. So, if personalisation has been such a crucial part of TikTok’s success, why is the platform going to give users the option to opt out of personalisation?

The move comes ahead of the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) which is due to come into force in February 2024. The DSA requires that large social media platforms give users the opportunity to opt out of being targeted by algorithms. 

What happens if I disable Personalisation?

TikTok users who avail of the option to disable personalisation will no longer have a for you page within the app. Instead, users’ For You and LIVE feeds will show popular videos from both the places where they live and around the world, rather than recommending content to them based on their personal interests. 

Similarly, when using the search feature users who opt to disable personalisation will see results made up of popular content from their region and in their preferred language. Their Following and Friends feeds will continue to show creators they follow, but in chronological order rather than based on the viewer’s profile.

The benefits of disabling personalisation are clear. The use of algorithms by social media platforms has been the subject of much comment and concern about how social media platforms are built to be addictive and the effect the methods being used by platforms to maintain user engagement may be having on user mental health. The use of algorithms has also been the subject of criticism in relation to users being shown harmful, divisive, and offensive content in order to drive engagement. 

However, when given the choice to opt out of personalisation will users actually take it? Opting out of personalisation will mean that users will see more content which may not appeal to them on the platform. It remains to be seen if, when given the option, users chose personalisation over privacy. The effect of the personalisation opt-out option on TikTok’s performance will likely be minimal, but it will be interesting to see how users react to the choice to escape TikTok’s algorithm. Will you be opting out?

Mark O’Rourke – Features Editor