TikTok Removes Undisclosed Paid Ads by Anti-Trump Influencers

The Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok has reportedly removed a number of anti-Trump videos after an investigation showed that many of the creators were failing to disclose that they were paid by a marketing company for the videos, a violation of FTC rules for paid content on social media.

BBC News reports that the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok has removed a number of videos after a BBC investigation revealed that a number of creators on the platform were posting anti-Trump material without disclosing that they were being paid by a marketing company.

The company Bigtent Creative has been funding skits and memes to persuade people to register to vote. One marketing campaign included mixing rapper Cardi B’s “WAP” song with a message from the rapper encouraging people to vote. Some videos it has paid for are reportedly non-partisan but many are anti-Trump and call for him to be voted out of office.

TikTok has banned political ads and requires users to disclose paid-for content, which is a FTC requirement in the United States. BBC News showed TikTok the videos and evidence that they were linked to the marketing company, then TikTok removed a number of videos but hundreds of them already had thousands of views.

A TikTok spokesperson said: “These guidelines also apply to paid content by influencers, and we rely on influencers and marketers to follow FTC guidelines. We remove paid influencer content that’s not disclosed as such as we become aware of it and are now taking action on this.”

Bigtent Creative began as a grassroots initiative that made memes and internet content in support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Since then, it has become a fully-fledged marketing company working with influencers ahead of the November election.

The company states that it receives funding from a number of Democrat organizations and non-partisan sources including VoteSimple, PushBlack, and ProgressPop. Bigtent Creative argues that its content does not qualify as political advertising but many of the creators that they fund make anti-Trump material which TikTok deems political advertising.

Ysiad Ferreiras, Bigtent Creative’s CEO, said: “Our work is not consistent with the platform’s definition of an advertisement. Our creators make their own content as digital organizers, they’re advocating for non-partisan action the same way paid canvassers and organizers working for non-profits do.”