Tiktok Bans Political Advertisements: Censorship or Branding Issue?

via Digital Crew

TikTok, an incredibly popular app with a worldwide user base, has now banned paid political advertisements on their app. In a press release, TikTok has said that they are banning political advertisements as they want their platform to be a place that, “inspires creativity and builds joy.” They go on to say the following:

“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. People come to TikTok because it just feels different from so many other places, and we’ll continue to work hard to support that.”

TikTok will still allow other paid adverts, however, any paid ads that come into the community “need to fit the standards for [TikTok’s platform, and the nature of paid political ads is not something [TikTok] believes fits the platform experience.” For a full list of guidelines that advertisements must follow, go on TikTok’s support page.

This move has met wild criticism, with many seeing this as another step towards censorship on the platform.

The Washington Post reported in September that TikTok had censored videos linked with the phrase ‘Hong Kong’. Hong Kong is currently in a state of civil unrest with protests occurring daily.

Here’s how this looks: on platforms like Twitter, you can search for #HongKong and come by a ton of videos, pictures, and articles linked to the events currently taking place. On TikTok, however, you will see only innocent videos and selfies, all with no sign of civil unrest or protests. A statement by ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, claims that TikTok is a place for entertainment, not politics, and that its audience gravitates towards positive and joyful content.

To many, the fight stops there. After all, Tiktok brings up a great point- the lack of sensitive videos about Hong Kong’s civil unrest comes off more as a move of respect rather than censorship. However, one can see that the protests in Hong Kong are being featured on all types of platforms- including as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit- despite their being branded as entertainment platforms.

The Guardian also reported that TikTok was banning pro-LGBT content; particularly, banning content showcasing same-sex couples holding hands. The banning of this content was down to their specific moderation. However, while legislation varies from country to country, this content was also banned in countries where homosexuality was legal.

TikTok has also banned videos related to historical events such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, under a guideline which bans ‘demonstration or distortion of local or other countries’.

As a result of this, many have seen the removing of political adverts as another level of this censorship. TikTok is a platform with a goal: to create a fun environment for users, and to share light hearted and fun content with each other. This is evidenced by the app’s many statements claiming this very sentiment. The vast amount of content produced by its users also contributes to that idea, featuring several lighthearted videos of people singing and lip-syncing.

One can see why they may want to remove political videos as they could want this platform to be about joy and positivity. However, the banning of content (such as same sex people holding hands and censoring videos of civil unrest) shows that TikTok are willing to censor content they don’t like, as a result effectively stopping their users from seeing things they don’t approve of.

This sort of censorship can distort the reality of situations, like the one in Hong Kong, and can be used as a tool to discredit and deny events to its users. This turns the app, with an incredibly large U.S. audience, into a weapon to censor information for the Chinese government.

It all boils down to one question: is TikTok censoring content for the sake of fitting its image? Or is it merely censoring content that the Chinese government disapproves of?


  • TikTok, a very popular mobile app in which users create videos to share with each other, has banned all political adverts on its platform.
  • The company states that they want to be known as a place that “inspires creativity and builds joy”.
  • Will continue to allow paid adverts that fit their platforms standards
  • TikTok have recently been accused of banning and censoring videos that do not please the chinese government