What's New
in Epilepsy

TikTok Adds Feature for Photosensitivity

We, at Epilepsy Toronto, were very excited when members of the TikTok team reached out to us to let us know about the new feature they are introducing to help make their app more accessible for people living with photosensitive epilepsy.  Below are the details of their announcement.

Making TikTok more accessible to people with photosensitive epilepsy

By Joshua Goodman, Director of Product, Trust and Safety, TikTok 

TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. At the heart of our mission is a commitment to inclusivity because people need to feel safe in order to feel inspired to create.

To be a truly inclusive platform we’re committed to making TikTok more accessible for everyone, and given the visual nature of our platform we’re beginning this work with a series of photosensitivity features. Over the past few months, our team met with epilepsy advocates who shared feedback on how we can improve our platform. Based on these conversations, we launched a feature a few months ago that warns creators when they produce videos with effects that could trigger photosensitive epilepsy. In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing another important accessibility feature to protect people from photosensitive content. With this new feature, viewers who come across a photosensitive video will receive a notification inviting them to “Skip All” future photosensitive videos.

TikTok screen

Epilepsy is a serious condition affecting an estimated 65 million people around the world. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 1 in 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their life, and 1 in 10 people will have a seizure during their lifetime. Flashing lights or contrasting light and dark patterns can cause people with epilepsy to have seizures. The initial accessibility changes we’re making to our platform are designed to make TikTok friendlier for everyone, especially those who live with epilepsy.

TikTok is working with a number of leading epilepsy organizations in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South Korea, including the Epilepsy FoundationEpilepsy TorontoEpilepsy SocietyEpilepsy IrelandKorea Bureau for Epilepsy and the Japan Epilepsy Association, to spread the word about the new feature and bring awareness to epilepsy in general.

Our team is committed to serving the needs of everyone in our global community and our long-term goal is to become the most inclusive and accessible online platform. We’re committed to rolling out more product features to support this goal, and look forward to sharing them with you in the months ahead.

From TikTok’s partners:

“For people with photosensitive epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns can trigger seizures. While the population of those with photosensitive epilepsy is small, the impact can be quite serious. It is great to see TikTok addressing this issue by making changes to their platform so that people in our epilepsy community can feel protected when viewing content on TikTok. We are proud to have worked with TikTok on this initiative and truly appreciate our continued collaboration.” – Laura Thrall, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation

“What some people may not recognize is that for someone living with photosensitive epilepsy, the internet is a particularly difficult and dangerous space to navigate. There is no way to know when you might come across content that contains flashing images or lights that will trigger your seizure, and that’s scary. We are thrilled to hear that TikTok is taking this important step to help make their platform a safer, and more inclusive space for those living with epilepsy.” – Geoff Bobb, Executive Director, Epilepsy Toronto

“Social media can be a lifeline for many people with epilepsy, allowing them to connect with others with the condition from around the world. A downside has increasingly been the number of flashing images and photosensitive content shared either intentionally or maliciously, which could trigger a seizure in those with photosensitive epilepsy. We are delighted that TikTok has recognised this problem and is introducing important new features that will make its platform safer and more accessible for those with epilepsy. We hope that other platforms will follow TikTok’s lead in ensuring greater inclusivity.” – Nicola Swanborough, Acting Head of External Affairs, Epilepsy Society

“At Epilepsy Ireland, our vision is to achieve a society where no person’s life is limited by epilepsy. With this photosensitive feature launch, TikTok has taken an important first step towards making social media video content safer and more accessible for millions across the world, including upto 2,000 people in Ireland who live with photosensitive epilepsy. 

While this is an extremely welcome initiative, many people are not aware that they have this type of epilepsy until they are exposed to a triggering event, so the risks have not been fully eliminated. We look forward to working with TikTok in taking further steps to raise awareness of the potential dangers of flashing video effects. 

We encourage users of TikTok to use caution when adding effects to videos that may unintentionally cause harm to other users who may have undiagnosed photosensitive epilepsy.” – Peter Murphy, CEO, Epilepsy Ireland

“We’re a public service corporation and we’ve been working since 1973 to create a society where people with epilepsy and their families can live in peace. In Japan, it is estimated that there are approximately one million people who live with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a cranial nerve disease that can affect anyone from infants to the elderly. About 70% of people with epilepsy can stabilize their condition with medication, but there also are people left with symptoms which are hard to cure. The number of people with photosensitive epilepsy is as low as 1 in 4,000, but the frequency becomes much higher if latent photosensitive people who are unaware of their own condition are included. We applaud TikTok’s thoughtful efforts to ensure that those with photosensitive epilepsy can enjoy videos in a safe environment, and we’re honored to work with their team.” – Satomi Umemoto, President of the Japan Epilepsy Association

“Recently, the video platform market has grown remarkably. TikTok, which is accessible to everyone, already has many users and creators in Korea. We thank TikTok for its efforts to make video content safe for epilepsy by launching photosensitivity features for epilepsy patients. The Korea Bureau for Epilepsy is trying to solve the psychological and social difficulties of some 370,000 people with epilepsy and their families. We will develop various contents related to epilepsy with TikTok so that it can be helpful to many people.” – MD, PhD Kim, Heung Dong, President of the Korea Bureau for Epilepsy

“As the preeminent international network organisation with members in more than 100 countries worldwide, the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) has a vision of the world where everywhere ignorance and fear about epilepsy are replaced by understanding and care. IBE therefore welcomes the new photosensitive warning introduced by TikTok that will help to prevent people with this type of epilepsy from unnecessary exposure to seizure risk. With more than 50 million people living with epilepsy, six million of whom are in Europe, we support any initiative that can minimise triggers that can cause seizures, in order to reduce the discrimination to which people with epilepsy are so often exposed and to ensure the best possible quality of life for those living with a diagnosis epilepsy.” – Ann Little, Executive Director at International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE)