Wednesday, 17 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateTikTok bans videos promoting sunburn after backlash about cancer

TikTok bans videos promoting sunburn after backlash about cancer

Social media giant TikTok is in hot water again, this time after millions of users shared pro-tanning material and encouraged sun burning, with Australian medical experts expressing outrage, particularly as that country’s most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma.

In apology, the social media platform says it will ban videos encouraging tanning and plans to add educational content to its platform about the dangers of sun tanning and skin cancer.

Recently, TikTok made headlines when users dangerously promoted an instant weight-loss remedy by taking a diabetic drug that suppresses appetite, one result being a worldwide shortage of the medication.

In September, Melanoma Institute Australia co-medical directors Professor Georgina Long and Proessorf Richard Scolyer took issue with the video-sharing app for its popular #sunburnchallenge hashtag, reports The Guardian.

Long warned that social media influencers were glamourising tanning with hashtags like “sunburnt tanlines”, which had more than 200m views.

She urged platforms, TV stations and influencers to “change the cultural narrative around sunburn and tanning” in Australia, which, alongside New Zealand, has the world’s highest skin cancer incidence and mortality rate.

In response, TikTok has announced a widespread education campaign that will impose a pop-up banner for an anti-tanning content – and for all searches around tanning, summer and sunburn.

The campaign, targeting people between 20 and 39, will also remove “concerning content” related to “dangerous” tanning activities, including the popular #sunburnchallenge hashtag, which has more than 8.4m views worldwide.

The TikTok trend encourages users to post videos of their most painful, blistering sunburns, “awkward tan-lines” and peeling skin for dramatic effect, with tips on reducing the severity of a burn.

TikTok’s general manager in Australia and New Zealand, Lee Hunter, said the platform would encourage user-generated content about sun safety and the dangers of melanoma among young people.

Melanoma is the most common form of cancer among 20 to 39-year-olds in Australia and the nation’s most deadly form of skin cancer, accounting for more than 1 000 deaths a year.

Cancer Australia estimates 17 756 new cases of melanoma of the skin will be diagnosed in 2022, making it the third most common cancer nationwide behind prostate cancer and breast cancer.

The Melanoma Institute Australia chief executive Matthew Browne said it had been lobbying TikTok for months to curb concerning content on its platform, which could influence young and susceptible social media users: 32% of the platform’s users are between 16 and 24.

“One Aussie is diagnosed with melanoma every 30 minutes and it claims more lives than the national road toll. Tanning is actually skin cells in trauma. There is no safe way of sun tanning, including the concept of getting a protective ‘base tan’ at the start of summer.”

TikTok has faced backlash in the past over viral challenges, including the “blackout challenge” where users choked themselves until they passed out, and the “Benadryl challenge”, encouraging large intakes of antihistamines in an attempt to produce hallucinogenic effects.

Last year, the families of two young girls in the US who allegedly died as a result of the blackout challenge sued TikTok, claiming its “dangerous” algorithms are to blame for their children’s deaths.


The Guardian article – TikTok to ban videos that encourage sunburn and tanning after alarm from medical experts (Open access)


The Guardian article – Families sue TikTok after girls died while trying ‘blackout challenge’ (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


TikTok turns diabetes drug into popular diet pill


Blistering sunburns before 20 years increases melanoma risk


Not enough safety data or research on sunscreen safety, say US scientists


Skin care campaign may have reduced melanoma in Australians





MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.