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Tiktok bans political and advocacy advertising from its platform

Political ads clash with its "positive, refreshing environment," says Blake Chandlee, Tiktok's vice president of global business solutions.
WASHINGTON DC, Democratic Mule and Republican Elephant statues symbolize American
Democratic Mule and Republican Elephant statues symbolize American 2-part Political system in front of Willard Hotel on April 10, 2018.Joe Sohm/Visions of America / Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images file

TikTok announced Thursday that it is banning all political ads, a move that sets it apart from other social media platforms that have become destinations for political ad dollars.

TikTok is a smartphone app in which users can capture short videos of themselves, usually lip syncing or dancing to popular songs. The app has attracted a large following of mostly younger users in recent years.

Blake Chandlee, TikTok's vice president of global business solutions, wrote in a blog post that the company has chosen not to allow ads on its platform from any politicians or candidates at the federal, state or local levels, as well as advocacy or issue ads.

Chandlee said the company wants to stay true to retain "the app's light-hearted and irreverent felling that makes it such a fun place to spend time."

"For us, it all points back to our mission: to inspire creativity and build joy," Chandlee wrote. "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."

Despite the app's easygoing culture, politics have begun to creep into some TikTok videos. The app, which is owned by a private company based in China, has also drawn scrutiny for reportedly censoring posts about anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Many TikTok users have recently referred to politicians in their videos, such as when a user who asked Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, to say hello to Tiktok, which Sanders did.

TikTok's advertising business is currently far smaller than its other social media competitors. The company has tested an ad platform, according to business magazine Fast Company, and some brands have found success starting their own TikTok accounts.

Chandlee wrote that the company is working with brands in a number of ways including filters, product features, brand partnerships and other formats that the company believes are a better fit for the platform.

"The decision to allow paid ads into the community experience is one we treat carefully," Chandlee wrote.