Looks like there will be at least one online safe haven from the flood of political ads our feeds see every election season: TikTok, of all places.
The popular short-form video app will no longer run ads from politicians or candidates at any level of government because “the nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience,” TikTok’s VP of global business solutions, Blake Chandlee, announced in a blog post Thursday. This ban also covers “election-related ads, advocacy ads, or issue ads.”
And it’s true, TikTok didn’t become the fourth-largest social media platform in record time by facilitating debate and political discussions; we can already yell at each other on Facebook and Twitter for that. No, most users log on to TikTok to post silly lip-sync videos or their take on the newest trending hashtag, and if politics are mentioned it’s usually in reference to whatever’s the latest viral meme.
While TikTok has only begun experimenting with paid ad formats, Chandlee wrote that, throughout the process, the company is committed to preserving “the app’s light-hearted and irreverent feeling” that makes users want to spend their time there in the first place. Political ads often loaded with barbs aimed at tearing down opposing candidates just don’t vibe with that.
“For us, it all points back to our mission: to inspire creativity and build joy,” Chandlee wrote. “We want to ensure we’re building a place where our community – users, creators, and brands – can be creative, build trends, and have a whole lot of fun in the process.”
However, this focus on fostering a carefree atmosphere hasn’t kept TikTok and its developer, Beijing ByteDance Technology Co., free of political scandal. The Indian government temporarily banned the app earlier this year based on concerns that it was being used to spread illicit content and coordinate cyberbullying campaigns among its purported 120 million monthly active users. ByteDance has also fielded criticism for reportedly censoring videos regarding anti-government protests in Hong Kong, per the Guardian.