Social video app TikTok has publicly stated that it will not allow paid ads that promote a political agenda on its platform, reiterating the terms set out in an existing policy.

The app, owned by China-headquartered ByteDance, already announced a similar policy for India before this year’s assembly elections and this latest statement formalises its stance for the US and European markets.

In contrast, US-based tech platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter allow paid political ads but with transparency programs that allow people to see who paid for the ad. Facebook recently enforced transparency ad tools on its policy on ads about social issues, elections and politics in Singapore. Twitter requires advertisers promoting political campaigning content to undergo a certification process.

In a blog post, TikTok’s VP of global business solutions Blake Chandlee, who recently joined the company from Facebook, stated that the nature of paid political ads “is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience”.

“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,” he added.

The announcement comes as the company faces scrutiny over the level of influence the Chinese government has over ByteDance and its content. A report published by The Guardian suggests the app censors political content in China that doesn’t fall in line with the government’s purview. The app has also come under fire for censoring voices from the Hong Kong protest and pro-LGBT content in some countries.

The company doesn’t report user numbers publicly but is said to have around 500 million users worldwide. It currently offers a range of ad opportunities, including in-feed video ads, launch screen ads and other native ads such as sponsored hashtag challenges. It has also launched a beta version of the TikTok Creator Marketplace, to connect brands with creators for their marketing campaigns.

The ban on paid advertising only closes off one method of outreach for political parties. In India, the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has roped in a TikTok celebrity to contest elections in the state of Haryana. In September, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) became the first political party to have an officially verified account on the app. 

Sourced from TikTok, The Next Web, NDTV, The Guardian, Washington Post; additional content by WARC staff