TikTok Changed the Voice of Its Text-to-Speech Feature, but They Won't Say Why


May 25 2021, Published 9:49 a.m. ET

Source: Getty Images

Fans who use TikTok's text-to-speech feature frequently may notice that there's been a recent change in the app. The feature now has a new female voice attached to it, and many users are wondering why that change was made. It's worth noting also that the voice varies by region, and this new change applies to TikTok users who are located in North America.

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Why did TikTok change the voice of its text-to-speech feature?

The text-to-speech feature was first rolled out in late 2020, and allows users to have the text they type read by an automated voice. At this point, it's unclear whether the new voice has been rolled out to all users, as TikTok has yet to publicly comment on the change. 

Reports that the voice had changed began to appear on May 24, though, with many users curious about what had led to the switch. 

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Because TikTok has not weighed in on the change, the exact reason for their decision remains unclear. Many have speculated, though, that the change may be related to a lawsuit that was filed in early May against Tiktok's parent company, ByteDance. The lawsuit was filed by the original voice of the voice-to-text feature.

Let's dive into TikTok's text-to-speech lawsuit.

It was reported in early May that Beverly Standing, the voice behind the original text-to-speech feature, was suing ByteDance, claiming that the company had not received her permission to use her voice. 

The lawsuit claims that Beverly was hired but the "Institute of Acoustics" to "perform voice work purportedly for Chinese translations."  

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The lawsuit continues by claiming that "upon information and belief, a company from China contracted with the Institute of Acoustics." Beverly told Insider that she realized her voice was being used for the feature after she received TikTok videos from friends and family that used it. She also said that she was able to identify which voice acting job it was from thanks to the tonality and pitch of the recordings.  

Source: TikTok
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Beverly also said that she was unaware that the audio she was recording would be used for anything other than translations, adding that it was not a part of any agreement she signed. She continued by saying that some of the ways her voice was being used went against her personal values, and worried that she would not receive future voice acting jobs because her voice was now so closely associated with TikTok. 

"The whole point of me going this public... it's not about the money overall," she said during an interview with Insider. "By going public I'm hoping I'm sharing with the end-users, the clients, the people that are doing the other end of it, realizing that this is my livelihood, and I'm behind this mic every single day working, training, teaching. You can't just take it." 

Although TikTok did not offer an explicit explanation for their decision to change the text-to-speech voice, Beverly's lawsuit may have played some role. Regardless of their reasoning, though, they'll still have to deal with the lawsuit either in court or through a settlement. 

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