TikTok uses AI to suggest search phrases on videos and boost search activity.
It looks at signals including user comments and queries from other users to determine search terms.
Some creators have expressed frustration with recommended search terms that are false or irrelevant.
TikTok wants people to use its app as a search engine. That's why the company adds suggested search terms above and below TikTok videos to encourage users to find and click on related posts they might enjoy.
As the feature has rolled out, some influencers and their followers have observed that TikTok's search suggestions can stray far from the topics presented in a video, generating random phrases or even pointing toward more sensational ideas about a creator.
For example, in one comedic video where creator Christian Vierling talked about inviting a new partner to a party, TikTok offered up the unrelated search phrase "christian vierling rehab" (Vierling spoke about his drinking habits and rehabilitation with Women's Health in 2022).
Mismatches like this between the search term and the video content have confused some users, who have made videos to draw attention to the issue.
Why does the TikTok search bar tend to amplify drama?
No, there isn't a staffer at TikTok who's made it their mission to spill the tea about influencers' personal lives.
The suggested search phrases on TikTok are determined algorithmically, not by a human, based on relevance and engagement factors, a spokesperson told Business Insider. To make recommendations, the company uses artificial intelligence to identify conversations around a video, such as by scanning user comments or looking at what other people type into the search bar after watching a video. The search results reflect what users are saying about the TikTok video.
The spokesperson said TikTok has safeguards to avoid making harmful suggestions that violate its terms, such as bullying.
When inappropriate or unwanted search phrases slip through its content-moderation system, the company has a feature that lets users report a recommended search that violates its policies.
Creators can also block certain keywords from their comments section, which would make it less likely that those terms would end up in recommended searches, the spokesperson said.
Despite TikTok's moderation efforts, influencers told BI the current system can still drum up false, sensational, or irrelevant phrases on videos, which can be frustrating.
"We have no control over what it says or how the keywords are chosen, which is so strange," creator Joel Bervell said. "It happens all the time, and we're not really able to see what the search bar says unless you go in from another account."
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