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TikTok Steps Up to Protect Users from Body-Shaming

I’ve been fascinated by TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app for which I am so not their demographic. In its relatively short life span TikTok has spurred controversy. In February, the Pentagon banned soldiers from downloading the app. And if you’re not paying attention, TikTok has become a flash point in rising U.S.-China tensions. U.S. politicians worry that parent company ByteDance would hand over American users’ data to Beijing or use the app to influence the 165 million Americans who have downloaded it.

But here’s what got my attention: TikTok is stepping up

We see countless examples of irresponsible activity and abuse on our social channels. So this is an excellent example of corporate social responsibility, of one Chinese company championing an important cause.

A recent report from The New York Times suggests that more than a third of TikTok’s U.S. users are aged 14 or younger–an extremely impressionable audience. The TikTok application has filters and editing tools, so users can dramatically alter the videos of themselves that they’re posting. That means their audience may be seeing dramatically enhanced and unrealistic images. And these are what impressionable young women will be comparing themselves to.

TikTok has taken a stand against body shaming

So get this: In the midst of a bitter election, a pandemic and a masked president rushing off to Walter Reed, TikTok has announced that it’s taking new steps to ensure that it’s protecting users from body-shaming and self-esteem issues. It’s placing bans on weight-loss ads and identifying new tools to connect users to professional services that assist with weight issues. Somebody at TikTok understands that food issues can be potentially life threatening. That for too many young women, self-esteem is tied to how they look. To being thin.

TikTok has updated its ad policies

TikTok is now banning all ads for fasting apps and weight-loss supplements. There are restrictions on ads that “promote a harmful or negative body image” and ads that make exaggerated claims about diet and weight-loss products.

New policies include:

  • Weight management products that can only reach users age 18+.
  • Stronger restrictions on weight loss and implied weight loss claims.
  • Limiting irresponsible claims made by products that promote weight loss management or control.

Granted, some of these regulations are going to be difficult to implement and will require human interaction. So get this: TikTok is apparently adding 25,000 new staff in the U.S., many of whom may be dedicated to enforcing this new policy.

Who will win the TikTok sweepstakes?

Oracle is leading the bid to buy a stake in TikTok. They’re hashing out the deal, which Trump has tentatively endorsed, but resistors include the Chinese government. No one expects this to be confirmed before the November election.

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