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TikTok will add a flashing imagery filter to address epilepsy concerns

Users have the option of blocking all clips with flashing imagery in settings.
Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
November 24, 2020
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General view of the TikTok building, in Culver City, California on November 17, 2020. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
VALERIE MACON via Getty Images

The problem with a service throwing random clips at you is that you could be exposed to something that could harm your health. TikTok is today announcing that, after lobbying from epilepsy groups, it will take steps to prevent people seeing clips with flashing images that could potentially trigger a seizure. Users concerned can now opt to skip all videos that the system has determined has photosensitive content from inside the accessibility settings. In addition, the first time a user comes across a flashing clip, they’ll be given the option to skip it and filter them in the future.

This is, in part, due to TikTok’s work to clean up its platform in recent months and also in response to criticism it received earlier this summer. The so-called “Seizure Challenge” saw people imitating individuals having an epileptic seizure, while music by the artist JuiceWrld played in the background. This was all the more insensitive because the artist died, aged 21, from a seizure in December 2019. The challenge was decried by epilepsy advocates, with Epilepsy Today describing the meme as “insensitive” and “harmful.” 

TikTok’s work in this area also comes amid the backdrop of its continuing struggles in the US where it remains in political limbo. At the same time, the platform has seen another copycat product, this time from Snapchat, which is launching Spotlight. Much like Facebook’s own TikTok clone -inspired product, Snapchat has secretly committed to paying influencers who make clips for the service. It’s not clear, however, if all of that cash will succeed in wooing folks away from the current social video leader. 

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