TikTok’s new feature lets you refresh your For You feed and retrain your algorithm
TikTok is introducing a new feature that lets you reset your For You feed and start fresh to retrain the app’s algorithm about content you enjoy. The company announced today that it’s rolling out “Refresh,” a new option for users who feel like their feed recommendations are no longer catered toward their interests.
The new feature shouldn’t be confused with the app’s pull-down refresh option, as the new tool basically resets your For You feed to its original setting in a way. When the refresh feature is enabled, the app will surface content on the For You page as if you have just signed up for TikTok. The app’s recommendation system will then begin to surface more content based on new interactions.
If you enable the new feature, your Following feed, profile and inbox won’t be affected. In other words, although your For You feed will get a fresh start, the rest of your app experience will remain untouched.
The new feature is a welcome addition for people whose tastes may have changed over the past few years or for those who feel like their recommendation system doesn’t really understand their interests anymore. For instance, you may have liked watching baking recipe videos in the past, but are no longer interested in them, yet you may be flooded with them in your For You feed. Or, say you were totally obsessed with a TV show at one point and still see it all over your For You page even though you’ve moved on to other interests. The new feature could help in situations like these.
TikTok notes that the new feature complements its current content controls that allow you to shape your experience on the app. For example, you can choose to automatically filter out content that uses specific hashtags or phrases. There’s also a “not interested” option that you can select when you come across a video that’s not to your liking. Sometimes it can seem like the “not interested” button isn’t enough, which makes the refresh feature a handy option to have. It’s worth noting that the refresh feature won’t override any settings you’ve already chosen to enable or impact accounts you’ve followed.
You can access the new feature by navigating to your settings, clicking on your content preferences and then selecting the “Refresh Your For You feed” option. From there, you have to click the “Refresh” button. TikTok will warn you that this action cannot be undone.
TikTok also provided an update on its efforts to ensure viewers are discovering a variety of content while minimizing content that doesn’t necessarily violate its policies. The company notes that it filters out content with mature themes from teen accounts. For example, more than 65,000 videos about cosmetic surgery were made ineligible from the viewing experience of teens in the first two months this year.
The company says it works to ensure its systems surface a variety of topics. For instance, it says viewers usually won’t be served two videos in a row made by the same creator or that use the same sound.
TikTok also works to limit some content that doesn’t violate its policies, but may impact users if it’s viewed repeatedly, particularly when it comes to content with themes of sadness, extreme exercise or dieting, or that’s sexually suggestive. TikTok allows recovery or educational content, but limits how often such content is eligible for recommendation.
“Our systems do this by looking for repetition among themes like sadness or extreme diets, within a set of videos that are eligible for recommendation,” TikTok said in a blog post. “If multiple videos with these themes are identified, they will be substituted with videos about other topics to reduce the frequency of these recommendations and create a more diverse discovery experience. This work is ongoing, and over the last year alone, we’ve implemented over 15 updates to improve these systems, along with expanding to support more languages.”
TikTok’s update on its progress comes as a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit organization, recently revealed that the app pushes videos about eating disorders and self-harm to young users. TikTok isn’t the only social media platform facing scrutiny for its influence on young people, as Instagram has also been scrutinized for promoting disordered eating.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.