Bytedance, the world most valuable startup, has been fined for running illegal medical advertisements in its news and short-video apps in China by the government.
The company, which created news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and video app Douyin (known as Tik Tok outside mainland China), has been accused by the China’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System of failing to submit ads for two health care products and one non-prescription drug for regulatory checks, and for failing to verify the content of the ads.
For failing to do so, the company has been ordered to pay 3.7m yuan (US$533,000) in fines and given 15 days to respond.
This is not the first time ByteDance has been fined for its digital medical ads, according to South China Morning Post, as Toutiao was fined 700,000 yuan in March and slammed by the media and government for posting ads seen as misleading and harmful to the public.
The Chinese government has been tightening regulations around online advertising, from search advertising to programmatic ads, since July 2016 after a college student died from an experimental cancer treatment which he found using Chinese Internet search engine Baidu.
The student’s death received widespread media coverage in China and prompted the government to take action.
Bytedance also recently announced a bid to fight misinformation, offering cash incentives of up to 3,000 yuan (US$432) to the 100 top articles that are written to debunk rumours on Toutiao.