The “Algospeak” Dialect


Algospeak is an emergent lexicon of euphemisms deployed by social media users to avoid blocking or downranking from the algorithms that govern the biggest platforms

After Facebook paid a Republican dirty-tricks company to stoke fear of Tiktok by associating it with the Chinese military, Tiktok found itself under increased scrutiny, and began to block pandemic-related content in a bid to stave off covid disinformation scandals:

That led to the company downranking videos that mentioned the pandemic in any way — a bizarre circumstance when the pandemic and its consequences were the most salient facts in the lives of every human being on Earth! Naturally, Tiktokers found a way to keep discussing the pandemic: they started calling it the “Backstreet Boys reunion tour” or the “panini.”

The moral panic around social media — as well as the growth of toxic communities — has made the platforms risk-adverse, and they’ve explicitly chosen to silence positive and important speech in order to avoid the possibility of a scandal. Suicide prevention content has to use “becoming unalive” as a euphemism to avoid being disappeared by Tiktok’s algorithm.

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