TikTok has announced some new steps that it's taking to ensure that it's protecting users from body-shaming and self-esteem issues, with new bans on weight loss ads, and new tools to help connect users to professional services to assist with related concerns.
As explained by TikTok:
"As a society, weight stigma and body shaming pose both individual and cultural challenges, and we know that the internet, if left unchecked, has the risk of exacerbating such issues. That's why we're focused on working to safeguard our community from harmful content and behavior while supporting an inclusive – and body-positive – environment."
In line with this, TikTok has updated its ad policies to ban all ads for fasting apps and weight loss supplements, while it's also increasing restrictions on ads that "promote a harmful or negative body image".
Further to this, TikTok will also now also enforce new restrictions on ads which make exaggerated claims about diet and weight loss products, including:
- Weight management products can only reach users age 18+
- Stronger restrictions on weight loss and implied weight loss claims
- Further restrictions to limit irresponsible claims made by products that promote weight loss management or control
- Ads promoting weight loss and weight management products or services cannot promote a negative body image or negative relationship with food
Some of these regulations may be difficult to implement effectively, and will require human review, but TikTok is also, reportedly, adding 25,000 new staff in the US, which may, in part, be in preparation for this increased workload.
And it is indeed an important policy shift.
A recent report from The New York Times suggests that more than a third of TikTok's daily users in the US are aged 14 or younger, which means that the platform has very high reach to an extremely impressionable audience. The app's overall user base also skews young, and with so many filters and editing tools available, you're really not comparing yourself to a realistic image of the person you're seeing in your TikTok feed a lot of the time.
That can definitely lead to negative self-perception, and as TikTok continues to grow, it's important that it takes steps to ensure that it's protecting its users where it can.
Cracking down on weight loss related content is significant in this regard.
In addition to this, TikTok is also expanding its partnership with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) to add new prompts for the NEDA hotline in searches related to body image related content.
"In addition, TikTok will be supporting Weight Stigma Awareness Week (September 28 - October 2) by launching a dedicated page in our app to support NEDA's #EndWeightHateCampaign. This page will be featured in our Discover tab and will educate our community about what weight stigma is, why it should matter to everyone, and how they can find support or support others who may be struggling."
Again, given the younger skew of the TikTok audience, these are important steps - and definitely, those weight loss supplement ads have been problematic, with many people reporting the flood of such campaigns within the app.
TikTok still has a way to go in protecting its users, but this is a positive move that could have a major impact.