Daniel Sinclair @_DanielSinclair Building for young people. Not reading @danielsunread. Lurking behind likes and thinking about social media, communication, & China. Nov. 18, 2019 2 min read

Again, TikTok videos are algorithmically gated and flagged for review because of politically sensitive — often to China — trigger keywords. The fates of those flagged loops aren’t always clear, but the number of leaked documents (and my own experiments) confirm what is said here:

What is more challenging to confirm, but is implicated in much of these experiments and the leaks, are how these broad algorithmic sortings likely inform the recommendation process. Even if a video becomes ‘public,’ and that is challenging to affirm, it may never reach the public

TikTok is unique in how it approaches public broadcasts; it follows China Tech’s censorship etiquettes by design. Leadership has claimed it merely avoids controversy, but that may simply be a spin for the generic structuring of most of China’s tech companies. This is how it works

There exists gates between you & the platform, your own followers & search, and then there exists a gate between you & the public, the recommendations, & finally, ‘the public’ remains unequal, w/ regions & content ethereally imported or hidden from others. There is no one TikTok.

It is something fundamentally new, a new kind of public social and broadcast, one designed from the template of an ecosystem built for censorship, architected in-part by the state. It remains difficult to study & understand — and I increasingly believe that is simply the point.

In the same way that the broadcast and its barriers of entry are designed, maybe simply unconsciously, the algorithm is designed & architected within, and the sister of, an ecosystem fraught with brilliant actors deciphering every clue & hack. As much a product of difference.

TikTok has intricate elevators in the algorithm. It is designed for addiction more than others we accuse; it may architect your personal reach to wield your interests & attention. It wants your loop to pop-off, when you need the pop to remain interested. It’s ethereal but design.

Unlike a lot of other platforms that over-emphasize influence, TikTok is actually quite (and shockingly so) democratic in how it provides reach. Everyone, even at 1 follower, is within reach — maybe for their sake, yours, or the mysterious elevator conductors’ at the Beijing HQ.

TikTok is a multifaceted casino w/ no timestamps, streered & filtered in a very different & more deliberate way from our familiar. The world is pulling the slot‘s handle — each unaware they might be alone, amidst a hall of projections, in a simulation inexplainable by design.

You can follow @_DanielSinclair.


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