Already under fire for advancing Chinese foreign policy by censoring topics like Hong Kong’s protests and pro-LGBT content, the Beijing-based video app TikTok is now further distancing itself from U.S. social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with a ban on political ads on its app.
The company today says it will not allow political ads on TikTok, noting they don’t fit in with the experience the short-form video app aims to offer.
“Any paid ads that come into the community need to fit the standards for our platform, and the nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience,” says Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s VP of Global Business Solutions, who recently joined the company from Facebook.
“To that end, we will not allow paid ads that promote or oppose a candidate, current leader, political party or group or issue at the federal, state or local level — including election-related ads, advocacy ads or issue ads,” he says.
TikTok further explains that it wants to be known as a place for creative expression, and one that creates a “positive, refreshing environment” that inspires that creativity.
It will further encourage these goals through its products like its fun filters and effects, as well as its brand partnerships.
Today, TikTok offers a range of ad opportunities, including in-feed video ads, launch screen ads and other native ads like its sponsored hashtag challenges. It also more recently launched a beta version of the TikTok Creator Marketplace, which will help to connect brands with TikTok creators for their marketing campaigns.
“Throughout all of this, however, our primary focus is on creating an entertaining, genuine experience for our community,” Chandlee continues. “While we explore ways to provide value to brands, we’re intent on always staying true to why users uniquely love the TikTok platform itself: for the app’s light-hearted and irreverent feeling that makes it such a fun place to spend time,” he says.
Political ads don’t fit with this agenda, the company believes.
But running those sorts of ads also come with significant challenges, as Facebook has found.
It had to create a system to verify the credentials of political advertisers, for example, which requires them to submit identification information like their street address, phone number, business email and website matching the email, tax ID number or U.S. Federal Election Commmission ID number. It also launched a publicly searchable database of political ads, for transparency’s sake.
As a Chinese-run company, TikTok may not have the resources to run a similar operation. In fact, it seemed to be having trouble cracking down on the hate speech found on its app last year, VICE had reported.
The ban on political ads isn’t really new to TikTok, it’s more of a reiteration of the existing policy — but it’s a statement that TikTok hadn’t made before.
The company tells Techcrunch it decided to address the policy proactively in order to be transparent about its advertising policies — especially as interest in marketing opportunities continues to grow on the platform.
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