Sexist TikTok comments are ‘more liked’ by users than non-sexist ones, study finds

Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos.Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos.
Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos. | prima91 - stock.adobe.com
Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study

Sexist comments left on TikTok videos are more popular than non-sexist ones, and men are more likely to make them than women, a study has suggested.

On average, sexist comments left by users on the social media platform received 604 likes, compared with just 375 for those which were not considered sexist by researchers, according to analysis presented to the British Psychological Society’s Cyberpsychology Section Conference.

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The study involved looking at comments which had been left on four different so-called challenge videos, and it was found that sexist comments rack up on average 60% more likes than non-sexist comments. The study comes just weeks after another study which was damning for the social media giant in which researchers found that ‘incel ideology is present, popularised and thriving on TikTok’ and that incels use the platform to spread ‘hateful beliefs’ about women.

Doctor Genavee Brown, who led the latest study, said women users’ videos attracted more sexist comments than men’s and warned of the potential psychological impact such comments could have on the person who had posted the video. While men were more likely to post sexist comments, however, both genders made the same kind of sexist comments, her analysis suggested.

'TikTok is not immune to the rampant sexism online'

Researchers sampled 400 videos from four different challenge hashtags – #cakechallenge, #bottleflip, #thorshammer and #chairchallenge – and analysed the number of likes, shares, views and comments on each. In total across the four challenges, 76,688 comments were analysed, and just over 13% of them were found to be sexist.

Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos.Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos.
Comments which are sexist are more likely to be 'liked' on TikTok than non-sexist comments, according to a new study. Stock image by Adobe Photos. | prima91 - stock.adobe.com

The cake challenge, which focuses on the size of a person’s bottom by seeing if a weight-lifting bar will roll over them as they lie on their front, attracted the most sexist comments it was found, a total of 28%. Dr Brown, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Northumbria, said: “The goal of the cake challenge is to not let the bar cross your bottom. This is because big bums are in – thanks in part to Kim Kardashian – so you want your bum to be big enough to stop the bar.”

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She said the Thor challenge, which saw users lifting a barbell upright, appeared to be centred around a masculine ideal of physical strength, and attracted objectifying comments towards men, adding: “So it seems that both women and men are harmed by these unrealistic, gendered ideals.” Some of the comments on the cake challenge included “Ladies, ladies, it’s about shape, how big is just extra” and “Boys do it better”.

Dr Brown added: “We were surprised to find that sexist comments were more liked than non-sexist comments. We thought that users might condemn sexism by not liking sexist comments, but we actually found the opposite. It appears that TikTok is not immune to the rampant sexism online.

"The most common form of sexism was discredit, whereby women’s achievements were coming under fire, often because of their gender. If every time you talk about something you have accomplished and say something positive, it is attacked, then that can have a psychological impact and make you feel like you are not deserving of success.”

TikTok said the report is based on a small sample of videos so it is not fully representative of interactions on the platform. Its community guidelines make clear that hateful behaviour is not tolerated on the platform and its policies specifically name misogyny as a hateful ideology, it added.

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