TikTok reaffirms zero politics advertising stance in wake of Australian scandal

TikTok has issued a pointed reminder to Australian politicians that political advertising of any kind is forbidden on the platform after it emerged that a marketing agency had been offering payments of $300 for videos criticizing prime minister Scott Morrison.

US-based marketing agency Crikey is said to have been behind the illicit activity after it emailed one TikTok user with a detailed brief on how to portray Morrison as “too slow and always late” in return for the cash.

The intervention was reported by The Guardian Australia, which quoted opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese as saying: “You don’t need any incentive to encourage people to put things on social media of a partisan nature against the PM, against me, against Clive Palmer, against anyone. That’s one of the facts of what happens with social media.”

TikTok operates a strict zero politics policy in advertising, blacklisting it alongside alcohol and gambling. This distinguishes it from rival services such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, where promotions over who governs and how are fair game.

Explaining this uncompromising stance to an earlier parliamentary committee, Brent Thomas, TikTok’s director of public policy in Australia and New Zealand, said: “We want to make sure that as long as the content that is uploaded adheres to our community guidelines, it’s absolutely OK. But where it is a paid political advertising component? That’s where we draw the line.”

Anyone found to have accepted payment for advertising a political party in Australia can face fines of up to $26,640 by the Australian Electoral Commission.