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.