TikTok has quietly disabled the ability for users to see total views on hashtags, in a move The Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an advocacy group calls “a step back from transparency.”
Previously, the feature enabled users to search for a hashtag on TikTok and see the total number of views on posts associated with that hashtag. As CCDH points out, this feature was used by researchers “to gain insights into the scale of views on harmful content, such as videos about eating disorders, antisemitism or dangerous drugs.”
Screenshots by the CCDH suggest that 21 eating disorder hashtags that previously totaled 11 billion views now have a missing view count, which makes it harder for research groups to assess how prolific said hashtags are.
According to the Washington Post, this most recent change comes after accusations of artificially inflating content related to the Israel/Palestine conflict were levied against the platform. But TikTok claims that this change was actually made a month ago.
In a statement, TikTok spokesman Adam Haurec told the outlet that the company is “continually evolving the TikTok platform and displaying hashtag metrics by number of posts brings us in line with industry standards.”
In a further statement to the New York Times in January, Haurec said: “Unfortunately, some individuals and organizations have misused the Center’s search function to draw inaccurate conclusions, so we are changing some of the features to ensure it is used for its intended purpose.”