TikTok’s algorithm is often scarily accurate to our interests. It’s like it can read our minds, and that also means it’s incredibly addictive, making it possible to scroll through for hours on end.
Jokes are often made on the platform about how the algorithm works. TikTokers have made videos demonstrating how if you interact with a video on one theme, there are paths towards other sides of TikTok that you previously never knew about. The algorithm is expertly tailored to your political viewpoints, interests, nationality, and even sexuality.
But, have you ever wondered what the app’s home page would look like without the algorithm? It’s now possible to see a completely uncurated view of the app with a new tool created by tech-wizard Benjamin Grosser.
Benjamin has created an “automated confusion system” tool called Not For You. He says it is “designed to mislead TikTok’s video recommendation algorithm, making it possible to see how TikTok feels when it’s no longer made ‘for you.’”
How does it work?
“Not For You” finds the other sides of TikTok you wouldn’t normally watch by clicking on videos and hashtags to find all the other nooks and crannies. Benjamin says the system is designed to “reveal those videos its content moderators suppress.”
He adds that its purpose is to make the app less addictive, and to “steer users away from feeling like the best path to platform success is through mimicry and conformity.”
“Not For You aims to defuse the filter bubbles produced by algorithmic feeds and the risks such feeds pose for targeted disinformation and voter manipulation.”
How to use the tool
- You can run the tool by downloading the browser extension on Firefox or Chrome for OS.
- Open up TikTok’s “For You” page on your browser, and the tool should automatically start once you begin watching videos. On Firefox you’ll need to enable media autoplay.
- The tool’s creator recommends creating a test account, warning that the app’s bot detectors could place your account in “TikTok Jail” for a matter of hours or days. He also suggests only running the extension for an hour or so a day
- To see how the tool works in real-time, you can watch the text reporting output, by opening a “console” using Option+⌘+K (use J for Chrome), or Shift+CTRL+J (on Windows/Linux)
- To stop the extension from running, close the tab with TikTok, or click the #nfy icon in the extensions area and switch the ‘Yes’ to ’No’ under ‘Confuse TikTok?’
Ben Grosser describes himself as an artist focusing on the cultural, social, and political effects of software. His other projects include “Instagram Demetricator” which hides every like, view and follower count on the platform, and “Go Rando” which changes every “like” you use on Facebook to a random reaction.