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TikTok bans weight loss ads to tackle ‘body shaming’

TikTok has banned weight loss ads in a move designed to tackle body shaming

TikTok has introduced blanket restrictions on weight-loss claims and unrealistic depictions of body image across all advertising on the platform.

A direct response to weight stigma and body shaming posts, the ban follows heightened recognition of the issue during Covid-19 and will be backed up by new policies, stricter user controls and external partnerships.

What is TikTok changing?

  • New ad policies are designed to ’promote and protect positive experiences’ by outlawing fasting apps and diet supplements.

  • Restrictions will also be applied to adverts which promote a harmful and negative body image.

  • As part of these efforts, TikTok will clampdown on exaggerated claims associated with the diet industry and limit promotion of weight management products to users aged 18 and over.

  • Stricter limits on weight loss and implied weight-loss claims will also be imposed.

  • TikTok will also work to limit irresponsible claims attributed to weight loss management products.

  • Any ad promoting such products or services will be automatically precluded from promoting a negative body image relationship with food.

  • TikTok will also hand greater control to its members, enabling them to limit exposure to such material through reporting and blocking functionality as well as comment filters.

  • The measures have been welcomed by eating disorder charities such as Beat for siding with vulnerable members of society.

  • Tom Quinn, Beat's Director of external affairs, said: “We know that the spread of damaging weight loss claims, particularly the spike in fasting adverts shown on social media platforms, has caused great distress and risked triggering eating disorder behaviours.“

  • Quinn added: “Using social media can be a helpful way of finding supportive recovery communities, but also has the potential to be a trigger. We would encourage anyone struggling to report harmful content wherever possible, but also consider taking a step away and instead focusing on other positive sources of support like Beat.“

  • As part of its new approach, TikTok is partnering with the National Eating Disorder Association in the US to connect people seeking support within the app to external resources.

  • As part of this approach searches and hashtags associated with unsafe contact will be redirected to the NEDA helpline where confidential support can be provided.

Why does it matter?

  • TikTok has a young audience that is vulnerable to harmful messaging.

  • The short-form video app has been bruised in the past for hosting ads and services that promote intermittent fasting.

  • The moves can be set against a shift in public attitudes which has already seen the UK‘s Advertising Standards Authority initiate a crackdown on ads relating to body image.

  • A live investigation is currently underway into the use of filters on Instagram ads which ‘exaggerate the effectiveness of cosmetic products‘.

  • The Committee of Advertising Practice has also proposed an outright ban on cosmetic surgery ads targeting young people.

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