DUBAI: TikTok has announced new features to safeguard the mental well-being of users on the app in honor of World Suicide Prevention Month.
TikTok, like other social media platforms, has come under fire for a perceived weak response to mental health issues.
Earlier this year, the AFP reported that a Pakistani teenager died while pretending to kill himself as his friends recorded a TikTok video. In January, another Pakistani teenager was killed after being hit by a train and last year, a security guard died while playing with his rifle while making a clip.
In September 2020, there was also a suicide video circulating on the platform that was disguised along with clips from other videos. The video originally appeared on Facebook and was shared on other platforms including Twitter and Instagram.
At the time, TikTok issued a warning stating that it is working to remove and ban accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips.
“While we don’t allow content that promotes, glorifies or normalizes suicide, self-harm or eating disorders, we do support people who choose to share their experiences to raise awareness, help others who might be struggling and find support among our community,” Tara Wadhwa, director of policy, TikTok US, said in a recent blog post.
This month, TikTok is bolstering its efforts to prevent this content on the platform as well as providing more support and guidance to users who are struggling with mental health issues.
The app will now direct users to a local helpline and provide educational content linking to resources when they search keywords related to self-harm and suicide.
TikTok has also created additional resources including well-being guides developed with mental health foundations such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention and a dedicated guide for eating disorders, which was developed alongside the National Eating Disorders Association, National Eating Disorder Information Centre, Butterfly Foundation, and Bodywhy. The guides are available on the platform’s Safety Centre.
TikTok will also issue permanent public service announcements on certain hashtags such as #whatIeatinaday to increase awareness and provide support to the community. This will be accompanied by stronger content warnings, which include updated labels for potentially upsetting content, masking search results with a warning layer.
The app has dedicated one week this month to drive conversation and activities around mental health. The platform will highlight content created by community members and experts as well as additional resources to further support users.
It will be available when users search for related terms, giving users the chance to opt-in to view the content.
“Our policies have always aimed to prioritize people who may be struggling, and we currently provide access to expert emotional help from global leaders in the field, alongside approved government resources. This is a continuously evolving process, and we will build on our existing array of wellbeing guides wherever possible, through insightful, verified information,” said Farah Tukan, a public policy manager at TikTok.