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The Family Guy pipeline

Art by Alfonso Marone

If you have been scrolling through Tiktok, you have most likely seen a clip of the famous American animated sitcom Family Guy pasted above another clip that varies from slightly-satisfying gameplay to sealing a pipe with a vegetable. In fact, you may have seen this several times upon just scrolling for a couple of minutes. If what I described is what you have experienced, you probably wonder why you have encountered it so many times. All of this is made possible by the Family Guy Pipeline.

But what is the Family Guy Pipeline? It’s practically an invasion of these clips flooding into your FYP (for-you page), making it more frequent to see. The cause of this all comes down to the algorithm. Although not much is known about how exactly the algorithm works for TikTok (due to the fact that many social media platforms tend to hide it to prevent people from abusing it⎼ although still abused regardless), it generally recommends content based on a user’s interactions on the app; this includes liking a post, sharing it, or searching/clicking a key term. The algorithm also tends to try catering to the community, recommending search queries, or what TikTok calls a “related search,” typically found above in comment sections of TikTok, highlighted in blue with a magnifying glass next to it.

Conveniently enough, the combination of a clip of Family Guy and a random montage of sealing pipes grasped the attention of the algorithm. By mashing together the key terms “Family Guy” and “Pipeline,” “Family Guy Pipeline” or “The Family Guy Pipeline Incident” was born.

The reason for the clips of slightly satisfying random mobile gameplay and fixing random things sometimes referred to as “ASMR content,” is simply used by content creators to avoid copyright issues.

Bots also have taken notice of this issue and began to post even more content that would flood many users’ feeds, eventually leading to people taking advantage of the situation by feeding more content into the algorithm- but with a twist. Many users would begin to modify Family Guy content with jumpscares and various off-putting things, purposely to surprise users who brainlessly scroll for content or to find enjoyment in watching Family Guy. The bots again would take notice and spread this modified content everywhere. The “incident” part within the related search “Family Guy Pipeline incident” is probably most likely due to this. Some edits would have unrelated inserted dialogue instead of the normal one, fourth wall breaks that catch viewers off guard, to even sudden cuts to eerie images like the one below.

Despite the trend’s emergence in mid-November 2022, the legacy of having a show on top and miscellaneous content below would still remain to be popular with other cartoon shows, like Rick and Morty, South Park, and some live-action shows like The Good Doctor or 9-1-1; content that has probably seeped into your FYP due to the algorithm once again. So what does this mean TikTok? Social media is easily influenced by its users, thanks to algorithms, whether for better or for worse. Regardless of the social media platform, algorithms will somehow always find a way to lure you into a stream of content, and there will always be those few who will take advantage of it.

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