An open letter to TikTok

Dear TikTok team,

TikTok currently has a problem with harmful pro-eating disorder content. It's the same challenge that every social media platform has had since the creation of the internet. Unfortunately, it's something that no platform has adequately solved yet, but we believe TikTok can make significant strides toward a solution if it wants to.

We conducted this research to explore as much of TikTok as possible and to illuminate the multitude of app improvements that TikTok could make to keep the public safe against the dangers of harmful content related to disordered eating. Through our efforts, we now understand the variety of ways users may interact with TikTok to encounter inappropriate content. We explored every facet of the application, from the array of search options within the app to the intricacies of the FYP algorithm to the behavior of actual users who are actively attempting to subvert in-place protections.

We were motivated to take on this challenge of understanding because we understand that TikTok's reach and ability to influence the minds of young people is so great. With the average user spending more than an hour a day on the app, additional protective mechanisms, improved filtering, and other interventions can have a more significant positive societal impact than almost anything else.

As a healthcare company with over 25-years of treating eating disorders and over 70 clinicians ranging from psychiatrists to dietitians, therapists, and an industry-respected advisory team, we speak from experience and expertise.

In that spirit, we urge TikTok to collaborate with us at Within Health, and other equally-qualified resources.

The following examination highlights the current challenges as we identified through extensive research, suggests tangible solutions for each, and includes a simple mechanism to harness the power of TikTok's users to "crowdsource" a viable, sustainable solution.

We want this type of harmful content removed for good, for the people impacted to have space to heal, and for preventive measures to be implemented to limit exposure to triggering content to people at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder. TikTok's enormous reach can help on a global scale, but it will require collaboration with healthcare providers and TikTok's users to achieve the maximum benefit.

With your help, we can improve the lives of those who struggle with eating disorders and body image issues everywhere and, as a result, save so many lives.


Within Health