TikTok, the social video app owned by China’s ByteDance, has banned political advertising, claiming that it doesn’t match with the more jovial experience of the platform.
The company’s vice-president of global business solutions, Blake Chandlee, who recently joined the company from Facebook, said in a blog post on Friday (4 October) that the nature of paid political ads "is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience".
He added: "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."
Chandlee went on to explain that TikTok wants to be known as a place for creative expression and one that creates a "positive, refreshing environment".
"We’re intent on always staying true to why users uniquely love the TikTok platform itself: for the app’s lighthearted and irreverent feeling that makes it such a fun place to spend time," he continued.
Two-year-old TikTok has been focusing on accelerating user growth and has a burgeoning advertising offering. It offers in-feed video ads, launch-screen ads and other native ads such as its sponsored hashtag challenges. It recently launched a beta version of TikTok Creator Marketplace, which helps to connect brands with TikTok creators for marketing campaigns.
In China, the app was initially launched in September 2016 as Douyin. TikTok doesn’t report user numbers publicly, but is said to have about 500 million users worldwide.
China’s influence over the app has come into question recently, after it was revealed that it censors videos that are critical of the government.
A Guardian report revealed the company’s moderation guidelines, which instruct content moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence and banned religious group Falun Gong.
TikTok has also come under fire for censoring coverage of the Hong Kong protests and for banning content that could be seen as positive to gay people or gay rights in some countries, according to reports.
The latest ban on political ads further distances TikTok from its competitors Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which have faced legal challenges for allowing the spread of misleading content and political manipulation. The platforms have since tightened rules for political advertising and employed many more moderators to prevent further abuses.