Autism TikTok Videos May Be Racially Biased

Rachel Worsley  |  04/01/2024

Autism TikTok videos may be racially biased towards the depiction of white people, according to a researcher-led content analysis of TikTok videos.

US researchers analysed 678 videos from TikTok that were viewed more than 1 million times and grouped them based on the following: 

  • Features of autism, which included videos about restrictive and repetitive behaviours, social and communication differences, associated core experiences, and talents;
  • marginalisation, which included videos about lack of access, stigma and misconceptions, and inspiration porn; 
  • supports, which included accommodations, services and interventions, and caregiving;
  • positive social interactions; and
  • daily life. 

They found over 87% of videos that featured an autistic person were identified as white people. 

“This may be a result of bias in TikTok’s proprietary algorithm, which may limit the visibility and reach of creators of colour or different gender identities, or may reflect the reality of people who are creating highly viewed #autism content,” the researchers wrote in the journal Autism in Adulthood. 

“However, the result of highly viewed #autism videos primarily featuring White presenting people is that autistic Black, Indigenous and people of colour may have difficulty finding others with similar backgrounds and experiences, limiting the full benefit they could receive from communities that represent them along both disability and racial dimensions.”

“Similarly, individuals who are nnonbinary, who are three to six times as likely to be autistic, may have difficulty finding representative communities as well.”

Only 7.2% of TikTok autism videos were considered educational in nature, compared with 73% of TikTok videos on ADHD. The majority of videos featured autistic people sharing information about their daily lives and experiences. 

“This content is supportive of equity for autistic people, in that autistic individuals’ needs and experiences are shared and explained, which is a necessary precursor to increased societal acceptance of neurodiversity, better acommodations for autistic people, and more equitable community participation,” the researchers wrote. 

Find the original study here.  

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