TikTok is adding a new warning for 'distressing' searches

Along with some expanded wellbeing guides.

This photo taken on April 8, 2021 shows Philippine priest Father Paul Woo (2nd R) learning a dance f...

TikTok is adding another set of pre-emptive labels to warn users when they might be approaching upsetting videos on the platform. The new warning will show up when users search for terms that “may bring up content that some may find distressing.”

CW: This article discusses eating disorders and suicide.


The distressing content warning says exactly that: “The results for the words you’re searching may be distressing for some viewers.” Beneath the text is a button allowing users to carry out their search despite the warning.

Users will see the warning when search results include videos that are graphic or otherwise sensitive in nature. These videos have been hidden by default since late last year, but now searches that could lead to those videos will also be concealed until a user has consented to see them.

As one of the world’s most popular internet pastimes — especially one frequented by younger users — TikTok knows it bears the hefty responsibility of ensuring the mental wellbeing of its users. The distressing search warning, along with a few other new features, re-ups the company’s commitment to that goal.

Some more resources — TikTok also announced today that it’s expanding the eating disorders supports it introduced earlier this year. There’s now a full Safety Center guide on eating disorders aimed at teens, caregivers, and educators, available at any time for users around the world. The guide was developed alongside experts from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), National Eating Disorder Information Centre, Butterfly Foundation, and Bodywhys.

The Safety Center is also now home to a newly improved well-being guide. Most of the guide focuses on mental health and includes tips on sharing your own mental wellbeing stories and on supporting others on TikTok who seem like they could use help. The well-being guide was developed in conjunction with the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the Crisis Text Line, Live for Tomorrow, the Samaritans of Singapore, and the U.K. Samaritans.

And better re-direction — As part of last year’s wellbeing refresh, TikTok began displaying local support resources when users searched for specific words or phrases related to self-harm and suicide. This includes buttons with direct access to the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Now TikTok will use that space to show some search results — ones hand-picked by the company to highlight mental health experiences. Once users have chosen to opt-in and see the search results, TikTok will display videos from creators where they share their own personal mental health journeys, including where to seek support and advice about how to talk with loved ones and peers.

The new initiatives are on track with TikTok’s above-and-beyond wellness approach relative to other social networks. Even without this week’s updates, TikTok would be head and shoulders above the initiatives headed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s refreshing to see that the company is using the success of these programs as motivation for their further expansion.