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TikTok Will Provide More Insight into Content Trends and Moderation via New Research Initiative

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TikTok Updates Ad Policies to Limit Unwanted Exposure Among Younger Users in Europe

Under increasing scrutiny from regulators, and amid various lingering questions and concerns about its ownership and its content approach, TikTok is looking to provide more assurance that it’s not censoring certain content, or amplifying certain perspectives, via new API access points which will enable academics and researchers to glean more insight into exactly how its systems work.

Under a new program, TikTok will soon enable researchers to access public and anonymized data about content and activity on the platform. It will also facilitate insights into its content moderation systems, via API access points, with stringent restrictions on who can access the tools.

That could shine some more light on exactly why TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed is so addictive, by enabling researchers to determine what users are engaging with, as well as what its moderation teams look to remove. Though it won’t, however, provide insights into TikTok’s AI systems, and the details that it can extract from each uploaded clip, and how it then uses those data points to decide what to show each user, based on their interests.

Which is really the ‘secret sauce’ of the app, and likely its most controversial element, with TikTok’s advanced algorithms able to pinpoint very specific elements within video clips, which it can then use for content sorting.

For example, back in 2020, a leaked internal document showed that TikTok moderators had been instructed to suppress content that featured people who were ‘too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform’. TikTok has said that such regulations were quickly removed from its guidance, but the very concept that TikTok is even able to do this, based partly on algorithm identification, suggests that its systems are able to use such parameters as ranking tools – which means that TikTok can, and likely does, use physical traits like this to show people more of what the like, and less of what they don’t.

In other words, TikTok’s AI can detect physical elements, and use them as matching parameters, in order to keep users scrolling. I suspect that this type of object ID, built into TikTok’s system, could be uncovered via more intense scrutiny of its systems, which could well be why its algorithms are not included in this new API access.

Then again, it could also be a question or proprietary information, and keeping the secrets of its success close. And it may also not be the concern that it may seem, with its AI system potentially built on the same types of parameters as Instagram or Facebook, with no truly controversial aspects.

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Though it is also worth highlighting a recent report which suggests that TikTok has been advising its staff not to talk about certain sensitive elements, including its AI tools.

According to a report from Gizmodo, TikTok has been giving staff a ‘Master Messaging document’, which outlines key points that the company wants to present, or not, to the public.

As per Gizmodo:

Right near the top of the list? “Downplay the parent company ByteDance, downplay the China association, downplay AI.” All three bullet points are the second, third and fourth lines of the document, second only to “Emphasise TikTok as a brand/platform.” Further down, the company advises its employees to stress that, though young people love TikTok, “the app is only for users aged 13 and over.”

Add to this the fact that TikTok is removing more content due to ‘nudity and sexual activity’ and it paints a picture of concern in some aspects, which could be exposed if it were to enable broader insight into its algorithmic systems.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see what comes up as a result of these new investigations, and what it can reveal about how the app operates, in regards to user trends, moderation, etc.

TikTok says that it’s also granting the same API access to its independent US Content Advisory Council, as well as its regional Safety Advisory Councils for deeper analysis.

It could be a good move to help TikTok solidify support and understanding, and reduce pressure on the app, while also providing more understanding of what’s driving its success.

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Meta Launches New Reels Features, Including Stories to Reels Conversion and Improved Analytics

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Meta Launches New Reels Features, Including Stories to Reels Conversion and Improved Analytics

As it works to latch onto the short-form video trend, and negate the rising influence of TikTok, Meta has announced some new updates for Reels, across both Facebook and Instagram, including additional Reels insights, the expansion of the ‘Add Yours’ sticker, and ‘auto-created’ Reels clips. Yes, automatically created Reels videos.

Here’s how the new additions work.

The main addition is the expansion of the ‘Add Yours’ sticker from Stories to Reels, providing another way to prompt engagement from other users via Reels clips.

As you can see in these example images, you’ll now be able to post ‘Add Yours’ questions via Reels clips, while you’ll also be able to view all the various video responses to any prompt in each app.

It could be another way to spark engagement, and lean into the more interactive ethos of the short form video trend. Part of the appeal of TikTok is that it invites people in, with the participatory nature of the app essentially expanding meme engagement, by making it more accessible for users to add their own take.

Meta will be hoping that the ‘Add Yours’ sticker helps to facilitate the same, prompting more engagement with Reels clips.

Next up is auto-created Facebook Reels, which, as it sounds, will enable users to automatically convert their archived Stories into Reels clips.

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Reels updates

As you can see here, you’ll soon see a new ‘Create from Your Story Archive’ prompt in the Reels creation flow, which will then enable you to convert your Stories into Reels clips.

So it’s not exactly wholly automated Reels creation, as it’s just flipping your Stories clips into Reels as well. But it could provide another, simple way for users and brands to create Stories content, utilizing the video assets that they already have to link into the trend.

Worth noting that Meta also recently added a tool to convert your video assets into Reels within Creator Studio.

Meta’s also expanding access to its ‘Stars’ creator donations to Facebook Reels, which is now being opened up to all eligible creators.

Stars donations in Reels

Meta initially announced the coming expansion of Stars to Reels back in June, which will provide another critical monetization pathway for Reels creators. Short form video is not as directly monetizable as longer clips, where you can insert pre and mid-roll adds, so add-on elements like this are key to keeping creators posting, and fueling an ecosystem for such in its apps.

Stars on Reels will be available all creators that have maintained at least 1,000 followers over the last 60 days.

Meta’s also adding new Reels performance insights to Creator Studio, including Reach, Minutes Viewed, and Average Watch Time.

Reels updates

That’ll provide more perspective on what’s working, and what’s not, to help optimize your Reels approach – which could be especially valuable in the coming holiday push.

Lastly, Meta’s also expanding some Reels features that were previously only available in Instagram to Facebook as well.

Crossposting from Instagram to Facebook is now available to all Instagram users, while Meta’s also expanding its Remix option to Facebook Reels also.

Reels updates

As noted, Reels has become a key focus for Meta, as the short-form video trend continues to gain traction, and TikTok continues to rise as a potential competitor. By replicating TikTok’s main elements, Meta’s working to negate its key differentiation, which could ensure that more of its users don’t bother downloading a new app, and just stick with its platforms instead.’

Which, whether you agree with that approach or not, has proven effective. Reels content now makes up more than 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram, while video content, overall, makes up 50% of the time that people spend on Facebook.

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Meta additionally notes that it’s seen a more than 30% increase in engagement time with Reels across both Facebook and Instagram.

Meta doesn’t need to ‘beat’ TikTok as such (as much as it would like to), but it does need to dilute its significance if it can, and make it less appealing for users to have to start yet another new account, and re-build their friends list.

That’s why it’ll continue to replicate TikTok at every turn, because millions of people are currently not going to TikTok because of the presence of Reels in its apps.  

You can learn more about Meta’s new Reels updates here.

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