TikTok Explained without Mentioning Regulation and US Education Failings

December 19, 2022

I am not into TikTok. I enjoy reading analyses of TikTok by individuals who are not engaged in law enforcement, crime analysis, and intelligence work for the US and its allies. Most of these deep dives are entertaining because they miss the obvious: Hoovering data from users for strategic and tactical information weaponization and information operations. I assume that makes me a party pooper, particularly among those who are into the mobile experience. I recall laughing out loud when I listened to a podcast featuring a Silicon Valley news type explaining that TikTok was no big deal. Ho ho ho.

I read this morning (December 17, 2022, 530 am US Eastern) “TikTok’s Secret Sauce.” The write up explains insights gleaned from “a project studying algorithmic amplification and distortion.” Quotes from the write up are in italic to differentiate them from my comments.

I learned:

… the average ratio of hearts to views on TikTok is roughly 5%. People are just not that predictable.

Okay, people are not predictable. May I suggest spending some time with the publicly available information on the Recorded Future Web site? Google and In-Q-Tel were early supporters of this company. The firm’s predictive analytics rely, in part, that people are creatures of habits. Useful information emerges from these types of analyses. In fact, most intelware does, and this includes specialists in other countries, including some not allied with the US.

I learned:

Exploration explains why there are an unending variety of incredibly weird niches on TikTok: the app manages to connect those creators to their niche audiences.

Let’s think in terms of unarticulated needs and desires. TikTok makes it possible for that which is not stated to emerge from user behavior. Feedback ensures that skinny girls and diets that deliver thinness get in front of certain individuals. Feedback is good and finding content that reveals more of the user’s psychographic footprint useful. Why? Manipulation, identification of individuals with certain behavior fingerprints, and amplification of certain messaging. Yep, useful.

I learned:

More generally, in AI applications, the sophistication of the algorithm is rarely the limiting factor.

Interesting. Perhaps the function of TikTok is just obvious. It, in my opinion, so obvious that it is overlooked. In high school more than a half century ago, I recall our class having to read “The Purloined Letter” by that sporty writing Edgar Allan Poe. The main idea is that the obvious is overlooked.

In some countries — might TikTok’s home base be an example — certain actions are obvious and then ignored or misunderstood. TikTok is that type of product. Now, after years of availability, experts are asking questions and digging into the service.

The limiting factor is a failure to understand how online information and services can be weaponized, deliver directed harm, and be viewed as a harmless time waster. Is it too late? Maybe not, but I get a kick out of the reactions of experts to what is as clear and straightforward as driving a vehicle over a mostly clueless pedestrian or ordering spicy regional cuisine without understanding the concept of hot.

Stephen E Arnold, December 19, 2022


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta