TikTok bans weight loss and fasting adverts over eating disorder fears

TikTok is placing widespread restrictions on adverts weight loss supplements and fasting apps amid fears that they could ‘exacerbate’ weight stigma and body shaming.

The blanket changes have been introduced as part of a policy change targeting the weight loss industry.

The specific restrictions will focus on weight loss claims and unrealistic references to body image in advertising across the platform. 

‘In response to weight stigma and body shaming continuing to challenge individuals and being heightened during Covid-19, a combination of new policies, stricter user controls and external partnerships are being rolled out in a move to tackle harmful content that can further exacerbate these issues,’ reads a statement from the company.

So, what will these changes actually look like for users?

From now on, ads for weight loss products will only reach people who are over 18, there will be restrictions that limit ‘irresponsible claims’ made by products, and ads will no longer be allowed to promote a negative body image or a negative relationship with food.

TikTok’s new weight loss advertising rules

TikTok

Users will also be able to manage their TikTok experience with access to more controls, including reporting, blocking and comment filters. 

The news has been welcomed by Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity. 

‘We welcome TikTok’s new measures to limit the amount of harmful advertising on their platform and look forward to seeing the results of these changes,’ says Tom Quinn, Beat’s director of external affairs.

‘Weight loss products can be very attractive to people affected by eating disorders. We know that the spread of these damaging weight loss claims, particularly the spike in fasting adverts shown on social media platforms, has caused great distress and risked triggering eating disorder behaviours in many of those suffering.

‘Using social media can be a helpful way of finding supportive recovery communities, but also has the potential to be a trigger. We would encourage anyone struggling to report harmful content wherever possible, but also consider taking a step away and instead focusing on other positive sources of support like Beat.’

TikTok is also partnering with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) in the US to connect those looking for support to external resources directly from the app.

Using a list of terms provided by NEDA, along with terms associated with unsafe content, searches for those terms will be directed to the NEDA Helpline, who will be able to offer confidential support tools and resources.

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