The term “algospeak” is a combination of 'algorithm' and 'speak'. It is essentially a coded formula for evading censorship and moderation for users on social platforms looking to raise or discuss topics which typically get buried or removed by social media algorithms.
“Algospeak” is becoming increasingly common across the Internet as people seek to bypass content moderation filters on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch.
It refers to the practice of exchanging words and phrases that are in conflict with social media censorship algorithms, with symbols or codes to convey the intended message. The offending words and phrases are replaced with innocuous words, emojis or memes, so that the user can convey the thoughts and message that they intended, without external interference and penalisation. Some common examples include using the word "unalive" instead of "dead," "seggs" instead of "sex," or "panini" instead of "pandemic, “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”
The platforms want as many users as possible but wants them to behave in a manner that does not deter advertisers. The platform algorithms are used to police conversations and subject matter in a bid to deliver advertiser friendly content, along with combating misinformation and unwanted actions such as hate speech, or inciting violence.
Members of the LGBTQ community for example believe that their content has been penalised by way of mentioning “gay” in their videos. Women’s health issues are another subject that has been raised as content that is hindered from social media content moderation and penalisation for fear of deterring advertisers.
As the pandemic forces more people to communicate and express themselves online, algorithmic content moderation systems have had an unprecedented impact on the words we choose, particularly on TikTok, resulting in the emergence of a new internet-focused form of Aesop.
Unlike other mainstream social platforms, the primary way content is distributed on TikTok is through an algorithmically selected “For You” page; having followers is a secondary metric that doesn’t guarantee people will see your content. This change has caused average users to adapt their content primarily algorithmically rather than following it; This means that it is more important than ever to comply with content moderation guidelines.