TikTok is introducing a new policy that cracks down on ads that “promote a harmful or negative body image.” The app’s new rules ban companies from advertising fasting apps and weight loss supplements. Advertisers also have to adhere to new, tougher restrictions on weight loss ads that they can continue to run on the platform. For instance, ads prompting weight management products won’t be able to target users under the age of 18.
TikTok is also partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to connect its users to resources offered by the organization directly within the app. One aspect of the partnership will see TikTok redirect people to the NEDA hotline when they search for topics and hashtags flagged by the non-profit.
“As a society, weight stigma and body shaming pose both individual and cultural challenges, and we know that the internet, if left unchecked, has the risk of exacerbating such issues,” the company said. “That's why we're focused on working to safeguard our community from harmful content and behavior while supporting an inclusive — and body-positive — environment.”
While a step in the right direction, ads promoting unhealthy dieting are only part of TikTok’s body image problem. There’s also the issue of TikTok users who post that content. The app’s community guidelines ban videos that “promote eating habits that are likely to cause health issues,” but you can still find countless proana videos on the platform despite those rules. Then there’s the opaque algorithm that powers TikTok’s For You feed. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News detailed how the app exposes people to content that glorifies unhealthy eating and weight loss habits through its home page. TikTok points out people can long-press on a video to stop similar content from showing up on their For You feed, but that doesn't solve the problem of that those types of videos showing up in the first place.