Are TikTok algorithms altering how individuals discuss suicide?

Are TikTok algorithms changing how people talk about suicide?

Enlarge (credit score: Rafael Elias | Getty Pictures)

Kayla Williams has by no means mentioned the phrase “suicide” on TikTok, although she makes use of the platform to debate psychological well being points along with her 80,000 followers. For the reason that starting of the pandemic, the 26-year-old pupil from Berkshire, England, has posted a number of movies about suicidal ideation and her keep in a psychiatric ward. A few of these clips are lighthearted, others much more critical. But Williams doesn’t utter the phrase “suicide” to her front-facing digital camera, or sort it in her captions, for worry the TikTok algorithm will censor or take away her content material. As an alternative, she makes use of the phrase “unalive.”

The hashtag #unalivemeplease has 9.2 million views on TikTok; #unaliving has 6.6 million; #unaliveawareness has an extra 2.2 million. Although #suicideprevention is a incessantly used tag on the app, the hashtags #suicide and #suicideawareness don’t exist—for those who seek for them, TikTok pulls up the quantity for an area disaster helpline. It’s a well-intentioned coverage, initiated in September 2021, a 12 months after a graphic video of a suicide unfold throughout the app. However customers have additionally come to worry elusive content material moderation filters that seemingly suppress or take away movies discussing dying, suicide, or self-harm.

Whereas the phrase “unalive” first turned common in 2013 (when it was utilized in an episode of Final Spider-Man), Google searches for the time period have spiked dramatically in 2022. From TikTok, “unalive” has unfold to Twitter and Reddit; YouTubers additionally use it so their content material isn’t demonetized. Relying on the context, the phrase can consult with suicide, homicide, or dying. Although “unalive” is commonly used comedically on TikTok, individuals like Williams additionally use it to speak candidly, forge a neighborhood, and signpost assets on the app. The fast rise of “unalive” subsequently raises a worrying query: What occurs once we don’t overtly say “suicide”?

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