TikTok announces new tools to address the ‘unkind’ and ‘inappropriate’ comments that plague the platform


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TikTok announced Wednesday new options for creators and users in an effort to limit the spread of “unkind” and “inappropriate” comments on the vertical-video platform. 

The first of two changes announced is an option for creators to “Filter All Comments,” allowing TikTok creators to hide all of the comments on their videos until they approve them. As the company noted, the feature is an extension of existing options that filter spam, keywords, and “offensive comments.”

The second of the two new features, which were unveiled in a press release Wednesday authored by Tara Wadhwa, the company’s Director of Policy in the US, is a feature that will prompt users before leaving comments the app finds could be considered “unkind” or “inappropriate.” 

When users attempt to leave a comment that the app deems as such, it will prompt them to edit or delete their message, reminding them of the platform’s community guidelines. The warning, however, does not prevent users from leaving the comment without amending it.

The company did not specify what words or phrases would trigger the warning for comments, though an example included in the press release involved a user receiving the prompt after attempting to leave a comment calling another user “ugly.”  

In the press release, Wadhwa said the company had partnered with the Cyberbullying Research Center to further address cyberbullying on the platform. 

“Creating a safe and positive app environment that allows creative expression to thrive is our priority. We’ll continue to strengthen our safeguards for users, build tools that provide people with more control to shape their experience, and keep listening to feedback from our community and experts,” Wadhwa said.

Carolina Are, a 28-year-old online moderation researcher at City, University of London, PhD, and TikTok creator who has previously spoken up about issues with nasty comments and moderation at TikTok, told Insider she wasn’t sure how effective the company’s “kindness” initiative would be in addressing the larger cultural issues with the app.

“I personally find the ‘be kind’ branding thing just really annoying,” Are, who said she has twice had her account @bloggeronpole improperly suspended by TikTok, said. “I find the ‘be kind’ expression has been co-opted by people that don’t want you to disagree with them,” Are said. “I’ve seen people getting called out for being racist answering with ‘be kind.’ So I personally am not a huge fan of framing it like that.”

“I also think that people who post those horribly offensive comments are not thinking of being kind and are probably not very kind. So I don’t think that would make a massive difference,” she added of the new prompt.

The feature allowing creators to “filter” or screen their comments before they are publicly posted puts more burden on creators to review harmful comments and determine which ones to post, she said. It could also allow users to create an echo chamber where they refuse to post comments that challenge their perspectives,” she added.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m super, super happy that TikTok is doing something about online abuse because I think it’s the nastiest place on the internet for it at the moment,” she said. “But I do feel like a lot of these techniques do put more work on creators and there’s always the potential for censorship by users who just don’t want you to post something that they disagree with.” 

TikTok creators have in the past spoken out about comments on TikTok and. Half-a-dozen transgender TikTok creators who spoke to Insider in February said they’d been harassed and experienced transphobia on the platform and felt that the app’s design unwittingly accelerated the harassment. Other creators have spoken up about their experience racism on TikTok.

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