Staff Reporters
Sep 22, 2023

TikTok accused of hypocrisy over gambling content

The social media giant is under scrutiny for twice-removing a video criticising gambling ads, despite increasing the amount of gambling content on the platform.

TikTok accused of hypocrisy over gambling content
A TikTok user who uploaded a video to the platform criticising the number of gambling advertisements on broadcast television, has accused the social media giant of hypocrisy after it removed her video twice, all the while allowing an increasing amount of content that explicitly references gambling.
Back in July, TikTok user Kate Susabu uploaded a video criticising the number of gambling advertisements on broadcast television, while mentioning her grandfather’s struggle with the addiction.
She provided a link to an online petition asking broadcasters to stop using advertising funds from gambling companies as a source of funding. Susabu referenced research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies that showed more than 70% of male gamblers between the ages of 18 and 35 were at risk.
However, TikTok removed Susabu’s videos inferring they went against its "community guidelines."
Content that specifically mentions gambling is prohibited on the social media platform, unless it is a part of an authorised agreement with four gambling companies. However, after signing an agreement with Australia's largest online gambling operator Sportsbet late last year, TikTok decided to remove its ban on gambling content. Public health professionals accused the firm of utilising the deal to attract a new generation of gamblers at the time.
Despite strong opposition, TikTok expanded its betting partnerships in May to include the companies Neds and Dabble. The videos frequently feature former athletes or personalities and are not always blatant advertisements.
Susabu told The Guardian in Australia that the automatic rejection of her videos by TikTok was “beyond disappointing" given the increasing amount of gambling content.
“My focus is on positive social change and considering how gambling is shown to exacerbate social problems, it is mind-boggling that TikTok removed the video promoting my anti-gambling petition and not once but twice,” Susabu said.
“Furthermore, it is rank hypocrisy that a company marketing its app as something fun for teens, makes money off gambling companies by allowing them to run ads on its platform.”
When The Guardian approached TikTok for comment on Wednesday, the block on Susabu's videos was lifted.
When Campaign reached out to TikTok for comment, they shared: "Aside from our ongoing controlled approach to gambling advertising, we do not allow other content depicting gambling on our platform, as outlined in our Community Guidelines. Users can readily appeal strikes they receive for violations of our Community Guidelines in-app."
Marketers have accused gambling companies of using TikTok to advertise to young women in an effort to diversify their primarily male customer base. In some videos on the platform, young women are shown smiling and gambling with male friends.
TikTok maintains that any ads featuring gambling content are only targeted at those aged 21 and older, and that there are limits on the amount of times they are shown.
“There is an opt out feature for those who do not wish to see the ads. We are also continuing to monitor the ads to ensure that all users have a safe experience,” a TikTok spokesperson told Guardian Australia.
Gambling advertisements could be forbidden in Australia within three years, after a parliamentary inquiry was launched in June. In order to prevent the manipulation of a "impressionable and vulnerable audience," it was advised that advertisements for online gambling should be outlawed across all media and at all times within three years. If implemented it would follow several European countries, including Poland and Moldova, that have banned gambling ads altogether.
Gambling companies and proponents of harm reduction are lobbying the federal government, which is expected to respond to the inquiry's recommendations in the upcoming months.
On TikTok, gambling-related content is currently required to include phrases like "chances are you're about to lose" and other phrases aimed at minimising gambling harm. 
Campaign Asia

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