January 30, 2023

According to Forbes, the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has a “heating” button that allows it to promote a particular type of content into the user’s feed. The outlet claims it obtained this information by reviewing six sources and documents.

The controversy around ByteDance and TikTok has no end. Once in a while, the Chinese app brings up a new scuffle that arouses public criticism. The app was already accused of spying on US-based journalists to find the employees leaking the company news to the media. In a recent case, Forbes is claiming that TikTok can foster special content in users’ feeds. This gives special treatment to certain videos.

We refer to this process as “heating”. It aligns with the algorithms to bring up a type of certain content and increase its exposure. As per an internal TikTok document reviewed by Forbes, “The heating feature refers to boosting videos into the For You feed through operation intervention to achieve a certain number of video views.”

TikTok has a “heating” button for boosting a certain content

The sources told the outlet that TikTok is using this feature to entice influencers and brands, convincing them to a potential partnership. Additionally, the company allegedly used it to diversify its content. After all, this means going viral on TikTok has a shortcut if you pay for it, and it has nothing to do with the quality of your content. It needs to be clear which influencers benefited from the “heating” button.

From a business perspective, TikTok’s “heating” button is vital for the company as it brings piles of cash in. However, the feature might be used for promoting a special agenda and influencing public opinion over a certain topic.

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Let’s also not forget that TikTok and many other Chinese companies and apps are under fire in the West for allegedly collaborating with the Chinese government. A few months ago, TikTok confessed that some of its China-based employees had access to US users’ data.

Forbes also reports that some TikTok employees used the “heating” button to promote their own accounts and the people they knew, which is against the company policies. One reviewed document states that TikTok employees might use the feature to get influencers in and promote diverse content.

In response to the allegations, a TikTok spokesperson said, “We promote some videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community.” The company also refused to clarify whether its China-based employees have ever used the feature or whether it has ever heated content in favor of the Chinese government.