TikTok tightens restrictions on weight loss advertising

A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 12, 2019. Photo credit should read
A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 12, 2019. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

TikTok has banned weight loss supplements and fasting apps from advertising on the platform as part of a policy change targeting the weight loss industry.

The video sharing app said it was introducing new policies that would increase restrictions around adverts which promote a harmful and negative body image.

As well as the ban on some products, TikTok said it would also only allow adverts for weight management products to reach users over the age of 18 and was introducing stronger restrictions on weight loss claims made in ads in order to limit “irresponsible claims”.

The social media platform said the changes were being made in response to ongoing issues online around weight stigma and body shaming, which TikTok said had become worse during the coronavirus pandemic.

The site said it hoped the changes would help tackle harmful advertising which can exacerbate such issues.

The policy changes have been welcomed by the UK eating disorder charity, Beat.

Its director of external affairs, Tom Quinn, said: “We welcome TikTok’s new measures to limit the amount of harmful advertising on their platform and look forward to seeing the results of these changes.

“Weight loss products can be very attractive to people affected by eating disorders. We know that the spread of these 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 in many of those suffering.

“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.”

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