Previously, TikTok’s attempt to provide transparency involved working directly with creators that belonged to its creator marketplace, as well as brands, to ensure content was labeled as sponsored or as an ad. However, as Mozilla’s report showed, and other influencer marketing experts have confirmed, there were many branded content posts that slipped through unchecked, especially for creators not involved in the creator marketplace.
TikTok’s new global branded content policy is in line with other platforms’ branded content policies but is even more stringent in certain areas. For one thing, TikTok doesn’t differentiate between “prohibited” or “restricted” branded content like Facebook and Instagram do; all 17 industries TikTok lists are simply listed under “prohibited.” It also lays out country-specific prohibited industries in the U.S., Europe and Canada.
The prohibition of the promotion of alcohol, drugs, gambling, politics, weapons and adult services, with an exception for family planning, are similar to policies in place from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. But TikTok has added several other new categories to its prohibited list not seen in other platforms’ branded content policies (regardless if there are internal rules that exist) such as live video services, age-rated films, TV shows and games, and professional services like accounting, legal and immigration services.
TikTok is also taking a harder stance when it comes to influencer activity involving financial services and dating services. For instance, it bans influencer promotion of management of money assets, loans, buy-now-pay-later services, foreign exchange, pyramid schemes, get-rich-quick schemes and cryptocurrency. Facebook and Instagram, by contrast, require that the brand, or what it calls “business partner,” receive written authorization from Facebook to promote cryptocurrency products and services. YouTube also places financial services, including those related to investment and cryptocurrencies, as a restricted category where advertisers might need additional requirements with the platform in order for their ads to run, but does not prohibit them. Twitter’s ad policy applies to all creator branded content, and like TikTok, prohibits the promotion of items like cryptocurrency, payday loans and bail bonds, but does not cover TikTok’s entire financial services list.
The extra focus on financial services is not surprising as the number of crypto and investment scams have skyrocketed durinig the pandemic. Also, investing app Robinhood was sued and testified before Congress in a very public hearing after it chose to halt the purchase of GameStop stock and accused of doing so to appease Wall Street business partners.
TikTok also prohibits the promotion of dating services, when others like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube place those under a restricted umbrella.
There are also open-ended categories like “products and services that enable dishonest behavior” and “other prohibited products or services” that includes items such as international brides, abortion, funeral services and even wild flora.
“TikTok’s policy is purposefully open-ended, allowing it to exert greater control and vet platforms and services that come to life in the coming years,” says Chris Emme, chief revenue officer at Display, a social platform and livestream channel of creator content.
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