TikTok Uses Secret “Heat Button” to Stimulate Viral Trends, Investigation Report Says


Both members of the music community and content creators have long sought to ignite viral trends on TikTok. But the impact of these efforts — and the idea that virality is entirely dependent on content and time — are now called into question, as the platform allegedly uses a secret “heating” button to increase the number of views of certain videos.

The mentioned “heating” button, which is said to allow ByteDance and TikTok employees to unilaterally increase the total number of clip views by adding them to personalized user feeds, was recently discovered in a Forbes report. The publication claims to have identified a behind-the-scenes tool by talking to six anonymous sources and examining a number of internal documents.

In addition to TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, which supposedly changes the rules of the game, which ByteDance is trying to sell to other companies, “heating,” a process in which team members “secretly select certain videos manually and increase their distribution,” is a common recipe ingredient. for viral success, according to the mentioned report.

“The heating function refers to adding a video to the feed “For You” through surgical intervention to achieve a certain number of video views,” is explicitly specified in an internal TikTok document entitled “MINT Heating Method”. “The total number of views of heated videos is a large part of the total number of video views per day, about 1-2%, which can have a significant impact on the overall core indicators.”

Prior to the publication of the Forbes article, TikTok did not publicly disclose or admit that he was engaged in “heating”. Unlike the clear labels that accompany sponsored and officially advertised clips, media files presented in someone’s feed “For You” due to a team member’s push (as opposed to their supposed suitability for the algorithm) are not marked as such. according to the report.

In addition, some employees allegedly “abused” the privilege of promotion. This alleged misuse allegedly included raising the level of content or videos of responsible parties uploaded by their friends and family, as well as various internal documents, however shows that employees “exercise considerable discretion in deciding which content to promote,” according to Forbes.

On the political side, TikTok decided not to answer questions about whether Chinese employees used “heating” to expand the reach of content, or whether content attributed to the Chinese Communist Party or state media was promoted using this tool.

But after the initial “hot” article was published, a TikTok representative indicated that “the national security agreement, which is currently being reviewed by CFIUS,” will make available for verification “all protocols and processes of video promotion in the United States.” In addition, “only verified TikTok USDS personnel will be able to “warm up” videos in the United States,” the person said, also claiming that “checking the Oracle source code will confirm the absence of alternative ways to promote content.”

Of course, critics have long argued that TikTok (whose parent company is partly owned by the Chinese government) uses the app’s unprecedented influence to adapt social trends and discussions to promote its narratives.

And as for music, the development of “heating” raises a lot of interesting questions about the exact terms of TikTok’s licensing agreements with the Big Three labels and others, not to mention the results of some research.

It is reported that ByteDance and large companies discussed the goal of the former organization to launch a full-scale streaming service TikTok. While revenue sharing is said to remain an obstacle in negotiations, basic logic suggests that the opportunity to bring a song to millions and millions of young and actively engaged users will immediately prove extremely attractive.

In any case, TikTok continues to make high-profile moves by this point in 2023, as more universities ban its use and a key competitor prepares to roll out a revenue-sharing model.


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