YouTubers routinely share crash dieting advice and encouraging eating disorders on Twitter, with some garnering tens of thousands of followers in the process. Twitter’s algorithms automatically suggest related accounts and topics to users to follow based on the accounts they see. When a Twitter user looks at accounts promoting eating disorders, Twitter recommends topics like “fashion models,” “fitness apps and trackers,” “mindful eating,” and “exercise videos”.
Twitter said that its policies prohibit content that promotes eating disorders or provides instructions or strategies for maintaining them, and that the company primarily relies on users to report abusive content. A company spokeswoman said his topic recommendations differed by account.
“While we’re removing content that violates our guidelines on suicide and self-harm, we’re also allowing people to share their struggles or seek help,” the spokeswoman said.
On Snapchat, users often form group chats encouraging each other to follow up on eating disorders. Some of the chats focus on providing negative feedback and essentially bullying participants for failing to meet their nutritional goals. Others give positive feedback.
Following a request from the New York Times, Snapchat said it would ban the use of group chat terms in users’ display names, group chat names, and searches. The company had previously blocked a number of common eating disorders-related terms and made suggestions for resources, a spokeswoman said.
Ms. Levina, the TikTok inventor, said she doesn’t think she needs to moderate her content in order not to influence young people into unhealthy behaviors. Instead, Ms. Levina suggested that teenagers are old enough “to understand the information given and decide what to do”.
Dr. However, Khadijah Booth Watkins, associate director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that young people are particularly susceptible to influence, so content creators should keep in mind that they could lead teenagers to make dangerous health decisions.