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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok is adjusting its algorithm to avoid showing users the same types of videos too frequently.

Why it matters: TikTok says the adjustments are being made to ensure it isn't inadvertently reinforcing viewpoints that could be bad for a person's wellbeing.

Details: The company is testing ways to avoid recommending content that, viewed sparingly, isn't harmful, but viewed sequentially could be problematic, like extreme dieting videos.

  • It's also evaluating whether its algorithms inadvertently recommend content that could take a toll on someone's health if it becomes the majority of what they watch, like videos about loneliness or extreme weight loss.
  • TikTok says these efforts are being informed by experts in medicine, clinical psychology, AI ethics and more.

Be smart: TikTok's algorithm was built to avoid redundancies that could bore users, like showing sequential videos from the same creators.

  • New changes would expand these efforts by ensuring that videos aren't just from different creators and using different audio, but also don't feature the same types of topics that, consumed over and over, could be bad.

The big picture: TikTok's stated mission has been on creating a joyful and positive experience. But as it's gotten bigger, it's had to tackle thorny content moderation issues like violence and misinformation.

What to watch: TikTok's elusive algorithm has long been a topic of intrigue because it can be so good at serving users the content they crave.

  • But it recognizes that giving people opportunities to customize their experience is important if it wants people to feel comfortable on the platform.

What's next: To address that, TikTok is testing ways to allow users to select certain topics or hashtags to avoid in their main "For You" feed.

  • For example, someone whose dog recently died may want to avoid seeing videos about dogs, or a vegetarian may want to avoid videos with meat.

Go deeper: Inside TikTok's killer algorithm

Go deeper

OnlyFans founder Tim Stokely steps down

Photo: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

OnlyFans founder Tim Stokely announced Tuesday he is stepping aside from the creator platform known for its adult content.

Driving the news: The platform has named Ami Gan, a former spokesperson for the company, as its new CEO. Stokely, who created OnlyFans in 2016, will become an adviser for the company, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the story.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

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