Press release

How does TikTok tick? DataSkop to scrutinize TikTok’s For You feed with users’ data donations

What kinds of content is TikTok’s For You recommender showing us? What niches are users being led into? DataSkop’s second data donation project is designed to find answers to questions like these over the coming months. From 26 January until the end of March, TikTok users are invited to donate their data to our project. By analyzing these data sets, we will gain deeper insight into how the platform’s recommender system work.

Berlin, 26 January 2023. Disinformation, hate speech, rabbit holes–social media platforms carry polarizing content which impact our society. This also holds true for TikTok. The platform’s name has been coming up recently amid heated debates about the dissemination of Russian propaganda, the lack of protection for minors on the internet, and discriminatory content moderation.

TikTok has grown to become one of the most influential platforms in the world. Over a billion people use the app. Our DataSkop project team will analyze real users’ data in order to investigate how and where trends and niches pop up on TikTok. Are there any indications that the platform features certain content in users’ For You feeds more prominently than others? To look into this matter, we will focus on last summer’s events, which were marked by the war in Ukraine, inflation, catastrophic heat, and Covid. How prevalent were these events on TikTok? To what degree are users’ For You feeds really personalized? After the DataSkop partners have evaluated the donated data, we will present their results to the public.

How does it work?

Participants download an open-source software which requests their data from TikTok. According to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), platforms must hand over such private usage data once it is requested by users. As soon as it becomes available, DataSkop retrieves the data and will present participants with visualizations that illustrate their TikTok usage behavior, as well as the option to donate their data.

Background info

Social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, or Google Co. are well aware of the harmful impacts stemming from the use of their algorithmic systems. In certain cases, they have done their best to prevent independent research on their algorithms. Data donations remain one of the few effective means to scrutinize opaque algorithms. The public has a legitimate interest in accessing platform data: to identify potential risks to our society and democracy, to hold Big Tech accountable, and to establish effective regulatory mechanisms for platforms.

For more information on our data donation software, please visit:

If you have any questions or an interview request, please contact our press office:

+49 (0)30 99 40 49 001

DataSkop is a joint research project by AlgorithmWatch, the European New School of Digital Studies (Europa-Universität Viadrina), the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Paderborn University, and the association mediale pfade. The three-year project is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program “Mensch-Technik-Interaktion” (human-technology interaction).

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