Election ads on TikTok breach company’s rules and EU code

Social media platform prohibits political advertising

Advertisements for candidates in next week’s elections have been running on TikTok, which claims more than two million users in Ireland. Photograph: by Onur Dogman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Political ads for candidates in the forthcoming local elections on the social media platform TikTok breach the social media giant’s rules and the EU’s voluntary code of conduct on political advertising.

Advertisements for candidates in next week’s elections have been running on the social media platform, which claims more than two million users in Ireland.

TikTok rules prohibit political advertising, and EU guidelines say that any social media platform that accepts political advertising must maintain a register of such ads that shows how much money was spent on them, and who paid for them. TikTok does not do this. These guidelines are due to become law next year, but TikTok has already signed up to a voluntary code that commits to following similar rules.

The breach of TikTok’s rules and the EU recommendations was uncovered by transparency campaigner Liz Carolan, who publishes The Briefing, a newsletter on technology and politics.


TikTok says it has “long prohibited political advertising, including both paid ads and creators being paid to make branded political content”. However, a series of searches on the platform’s ad library shows multiple ads for candidates running in the local elections.

Because TikTok says it does not carry political ads, it does not keep a register of such ads as required by EU recommendations and the voluntary code.

The Briefing also established that TikTok does not publish any details on political ads that it cancels – meaning that it is not possible to see who paid for an ad or how many people saw it before it was taken off the platform.

“This really matters,” Ms Carolan said, “because democracy depends on campaigning happening out in the open. This is especially true when it comes to people spending money in order to influence elections, which is what political ads are at their core.”

A representative for the company said: “TikTok does not allow paid political advertising, and this content has been removed from our platform.” However, while this statement was being delivered ads were still visible on the site.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times