In recent days TikTok has gained attention for banning influencers from promoting investment and cryptocurrency promotion on the youth-friendly app. As it turns out, those changes are part of a sweeping new policy TikTok has quietly implemented to take greater control over a range of influencer activities, covering everything from legal services to dating brands.
The moves come as the upstart app matures into a major brand marketing force, leading it to deal with newfound responsibilities while it also tries to hold onto its freewheeling ethos that has made it so popular with creators.
“TikTok is going to have to balance the fine line of the First Amendment against doing what is perceived to be the right thing,” says Greg Paull, co-founder and principal at marketing consultancy R3. “What they may lose in terms of fringe engagement, they should gain in terms of a more reliable and safe space for marketers. Their challenge is going to be on where to draw the line next. Will discussion on stocks such as GameStop be restricted as it was with Robinhood? And will these and other restrictions restrict free expression from influencers—it becomes a slippery slope.”
The changes from the ByteDance-owned social media app are contained in a new strict branded content policy that sits within a new branded content section under its business and creator monetization rules, separate from its ads policy. A TikTok spokesperson says the new rules were introduced on May 25, along with a new method the app is testing to make it easier for creators to disclose when they are posting on behalf of a brand. “Our policies are designed to ensure a safe and positive environment for our community,” said a TikTok spokesperson.
TikTok is now requiring creators to enable a new brand content toggle that is currently being tested with creators with more than 10,000 followers. Even if creators don’t have access to the new toggle, the rules are clear: Creators have to disclose when they are posting branded content, which TikTok defines as when a creator receives “something of value from a third party such as a brand” in exchange for a post. TikTok states that all branded content will be reviewed by its moderation team.
The new rules and toggle were introduced a few days before TikTok was called out in a 20-page study from the Mozilla Foundation that claimed the platform did not monitor or enforce its rule that influencers disclose paid partnerships or label sponsored posts as ads. The study mostly looked at the shady affairs of political influencers on the platform. At the time, a TikTok representative said the platform was making it easier for users to label non-political paid posts.
Toggle on for #Ad
The new branded content toggle appears for creators before they post any content on the platform. When enabled, the toggle adds an #Ad disclosure to the description of the video posted, the rules state. Creators have to first turn on the toggle in options on the post screen to make it active, or if a creator includes an ad disclosure in a video, the platform will automatically enable the branded content toggle.
Creators can also link videos to brand campaigns by entering campaign details or a code provided by the advertiser. For creators within the TikTok Creator Marketplace, their linked campaigns will also share post analytics with brand partners. There is also a note on music licensing for branded content, advising brands and creators it is required to use music from the app’s commercial music library or confirm rights to use other music.