A study by two universities has claimed that there seems to be a concerning push by social media platforms toward misogynistic content and how it could be harming the mindsets of the young people being exposed to it.
What Did The Study Say?
A study was conducted by teams from University College London and the University of Kent, called Safer Scrolling where they observed that social media platforms seem to be pushing misogynistic content toward youngsters and teenagers and normalising harmful ideas.
The study especially took a look at how the algorithms of these platforms is pushing for harmful content to young people even if they don’t initially search for such things on their own.
While the study used TikTok as its base platform to observe their findings on, however, that does not mean the same is not happening on other social media platforms.
Monitoring for 5 days, the study noticed that there was a four-fold increase in the amount of misogynistic content shown by TikTok with the algorithm suggesting more and more extreme videos centered around blaming women and angering the viewer thus lending toward their radicalisation.
As per reports, the researchers after interviewing young people who create and engage with radical online content created different archetypes of teenage boys who could fall for such content and then made a TikTok account for each archetype with its particular interests such as masculinity, loneliness and more.
The researchers then scrolled through over 1,000 videos that were suggested by TikTok on the “For You” page over seven days.
A Guardian report reveals that while in the beginning the content was geared toward the given interests of each account, however, within just five days there was a four times jump in the amount of misogynistic content being presented “including objectification, sexual harassment or discrediting women, which increased from 13% of recommended videos to 56%.”
The study recommends that a “healthy digital diet” approach should be encouraged instead of putting bans on phones or social media platforms that would eventually be ineffective and could cause youngsters to use more dangerous methods.
Dr. Kaitlyn Regehr (UCL Information Studies) and the principal investigator on the study stated that “Harmful views and tropes are now becoming normalised among young people,” and how “Online consumption is impacting young people’s offline behaviours, as we see these ideologies moving off screens and into schoolyards.”
Regehr further commented that “Algorithmic processes on TikTok and other social media sites target people’s vulnerabilities – such as loneliness or feelings of loss of control – and gamify harmful content” and that “As young people microdose on topics like self-harm, or extremism, to them, it feels like entertainment.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, that was a part of the research, said “UCL’s findings show that algorithms – which most of us know little about – have a snowball effect in which they serve up ever-more extreme content in the form of entertainment.
This is deeply worrying in general but particularly so in respect of the amplification of messages around toxic masculinity and its impact on young people who need to be able to grow up and develop their understanding of the world without being influenced by such appalling material.
We call upon TikTok in particular and social media platforms in general to review their algorithms as a matter of urgency and to strengthen safeguards to prevent this type of content, and on the government and Ofcom to consider the implications of this issue under the auspices of the new Online Safety Act.”
TikTok’s spokesperson commented on this stating “Misogyny has long been prohibited on TikTok and we proactively detect 93% of content we remove for breaking our rules on hate. The methodology used in this report does not reflect how real people experience TikTok.”
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