January 2022

Election monitoring, YouChoose updates and our first TikTok workshop

January 2022 was an exciting time, as youchoose; despite being ready to launch, it underwent a revamp of the site and the offer.

Unfortunately, the search for YouTubers to promote the initiative was unsuccessful, it’s sad to report, but the YouTubers are afraid of the repercussions that installing youchoose could have on them as if google would punish them for it. Again, it’s sad because, on the one hand, it’s a defeatist mentality of those who, in fear of being punished by the boss, prefer the status quo. On the other, because it means they accept the dominance of the algorithms imposed by the platform.

This is the most complex challenge for youchoose: making you imagine a different future, a future in which you can be in control of algorithms. A future where recommendations are interoperable, and you can mix them with those of the platform (should you wish, without it being a default).

This month we have a new team member, Margeau, who works on the user research of youchoose!

TikTok.tracking.exposed has started to be used, at least internally, as an evidence collection mechanism. A group of female students participating in the winter school at the University of Amsterdam attended a workshop organized by Salvatore and Marc. They tried different combinations of VPNs and search queries in order to test whether and how TikTok treated source IPs differently. You can watch the web slide presentation at this address or the final report on the university website.

This, in addition to the usefulness of a test with real researchers, was significant in showing us the direction in which to develop the TikTok Observatory, a part of the project sponsored by the Mozilla Technology Fund.

Attention to TikTok is growing rapidly. We are trying to build on the lessons learned from Facebook, YouTube, Pornhub, and Amazon to make adoption and integration as easy as possible. The goal, for now, is to target searchers, power users, and those who can integrate our code into other visualization systems.

We have also started a new multi-platform monitoring of the election campaign! As you may know, France will be called to the polls this spring. However, national laws, which should apply to the media, only apply to the old media, and there is a need for independent analysis to support institutions starting to take measures on how to behave towards information intermediated by algorithms.