SeriousJuan: excluded for reviewing a science book

SeriousJuan: excluded for reviewing a science book
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Content Moderation

In May 2023, the TikTok account SeriousJuan, managed by communications strategist Juan Fernando Giraldo*, posted a video recommending the book The Immortality Key by Brian Muraresku, which explores the use of hallucinogenic substances in ancient Greece and in the rites of early Christianity. 

Although his intention was to review the book and highlight the author's findings, a week after posting the video the platform notified him that he had been banned from the For You Feed - TikTok's main section - for an alleged violation of the alcohol, tobacco and drug policy.

In the video, Giraldo mentioned a study by Johns Hopkins University that supports the use of psilocybin - a hallucinogenic substance present in some mushrooms - as a treatment for depressive disorders. In addition, the publication included the hashtag #psilocybin, which on TikTok gathers content with more than 70 million reproductions that talk about the benefits of this compound, guides for its consumption, testimonials and daily microdosing routines.

A gray area in the inclusion criteria

The For You Feed (FYF) is the backbone of TikTok, as this is where the recommendation system defines the flow of videos for each user. In this sense, the section offers the possibility for content creators to access a wider audience. Therefore, an exclusion from that section can significantly affect the reach and visibility of users, especially when they do not have a large base of followers. 

TikTok has criteria in place to prevent inappropriate content from appearing on the For You page. In the case of the alcohol, tobacco and drug policy, for example, posts that promote excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use by adults are excluded. However, there are no specific rules to exclude drug-related content.

Exclusions from the alcohol, tobacco and drug policy at TikTok.

According to this information, the sanction that @SeriousJuan received is not foreseen by the platform, at least explicitly, which evidences a gray area in the policies regarding the appearance of content related to hallucinogenic substances in the Para Ti Feed. 

Despite Giraldo's request for a review, months later he still has not received a response. However, in this time the publication has accumulated more than 10,000 views and is one of the most reproduced on his account, suggesting that his appeal may have been successful even though he was not notified. 

Although the video has continued to gain views, apparently the initial sanction had an effect on the system that allows viewing the metrics of the videos, because from the day it was notified of the exclusion, TikTok's analysis tool stopped collecting its data. Although it seems an anecdotal event, failures of this type can affect the strategies of creators, as they are unable to know in detail the performance of their content.

Metrics of @SeriousJuan's video views.

Recently, Giraldo published a video in which he recommends the book How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan, a journalistic work that also covers the history of psychedelics. For now, the content has not had any inconveniences. 

*JuanFernando Giraldo is an informal member of Linterna Verde's board of directors.

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