TikTok Is Letting People Shut Off Its Infamous Algorithm—and Think for Themselves
TikTok is making its algorithm optional for users in the European Union. But more legal and design changes are necessary to protect people’s right to “cognitive liberty.”
TikTok recently announced that its users in the European Union will soon be able to switch off its infamously engaging content-selection algorithm. The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is driving this change as part of the region’s broader effort to regulate AI and digital services in accordance with human rights and values.
TikTok’s algorithm learns from users’ interactions—how long they watch, what they like, when they share a video—to create a highly tailored and immersive experience that can shape their mental states, preferences, and behaviors without their full awareness or consent. An opt-out feature is a great step toward protecting cognitive liberty, the fundamental right to self-determination over our brains and mental experiences. Rather than being confined to algorithmically curated For You pages and live feeds, users will be able to see trending videos in their region and language, or a “Following and Friends” feed that lists the creators they follow in chronological order.
This prioritizes popular content in their region rather than content selected for its stickiness. The law also bans targeted advertisement to users between 13 and 17 years old, and provides more information and reporting options to flag illegal or harmful content. (Source: Wired)