TikTok has added a new feature to its app that lets people with photosensitive epilepsy automatically skip videos that might trigger them.
With this feature enabled, viewers who come across their first photosensitive video will receive a notification offering them the option to “Skip All” future videos Joshua Goodman, Tiktok’s Director of Product, Trust and Safety said in a blog post.
Epilepsy is a disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal and can affect all people. Symptoms of the disorder vary widely, with seizures ranging from blank stares to twitching arms or legs.
“For people with photosensitive epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns can trigger seizures. While the population of those with photosensitive epilepsy is small, the impact can be quite serious”, said Laura Thrall, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, one of the epilepsy organisations that TikTok worked with, said in a statement.
‘It is great to see TikTok addressing this issue by making changes to their platform so that people in our epilepsy community can feel protected when viewing content on TikTok. We are proud to have worked with TikTok on this initiative and truly appreciate our continued collaboration.”
Digital content that could trigger epilepsy has serious ramifications if used intentionally and maliciously. A mass cyberattack on Epilepsy Foundation was conducted in 2019, with individuals sending videos and images of flashing strobe lights as deliberate triggers to the organisation.
Similarly, in 2016, journalist Kurt Eichenwald was targeted with GIFs after posting criticism of Donald Trump. It was argued that the use of a strobe light in the graphic was akin to sending an explosive or poison in the post.
“This electronic message was no different than a bomb sent in the mail or anthrax sent in an envelope,” said Steven Lieberman, Mr Eichenwald’s lawyer, at the time. “It triggers a physical effect.” Investigators also found evidence of the attack’s intention to induce Mr Eichenwald’s epilepsy.
TikTok has also been taking action against harmful content on its platform, cracking down on racist and misleading videos – albeit with mixed success.
However, the app has been banned in India over its failure to filter out “immoral and indecent” content, according to the country’s telecommunication authority.
*Article first appeared on Independent