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What happens if the US government bans TikTok


Since its reinvention in 2017, TikTok has taken the world by storm. The short video app — which uses an algorithm that suggests videos to people in an endless feed you can scroll through — is peppered with all kinds of content under the sun. Whether you’re interested in anime, looking for the wildest mashups you’ve ever heard, or just there for pure entertainment, the app’s vastness has made it the defining social media platform of an entire generation. A Pew Research Center study reports that 67% of American teens say they use the app, out over 150 million US users.

However, as TikTok has grown, it has come under increasing scrutiny from users, journalists, and the US government. There is criticism of the app spreading disinformation on all sorts of topicssuch as climate change, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and even the neurodevelopmental disorder ADHD. TikTok has also faced lawsuits from parents claiming that the app was encouraged eating disorders in their children.

More recently, Tiktok faces a greater challenge as state and federal agencies seek to ban the app over perceived national security risks. (This isn’t a first for the app; in 2020, former President Trump proposed a TikTok ban.) In mid-March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration was demanding TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their shares or risk a ban in the United States. Thursday morning, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in Congress amid growing uncertainty surrounding the app.

All the information about the potential ban can be a lot to parse, so from one TikTok scroller to another, here’s everything you need to know about the proposed TikTok ban and its potential impact on everyday users.

Why do people want to ban TikTok?

Essentially, certain lawmakers want to ban TikTok because they say it poses a risk to national security, with regard to the Chinese government and, more specifically, the fear that this government could or will interfere with TikTok’s activities. TikTok is owned by China-based company ByteDance, and US lawmakers have raised concerns that TikTok could misuse user data to spy on its US users and feed them misinformation. That said, there are a number of people who all have different opinions about these supposed dangers and possibilities, so it’s important not to generalize these arguments too much. In this case, it is helpful to look directly at the logic of the legislators who were early proponents of prohibition.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

While support for a ban goes beyond this list, there are three key politicians pushing for a TikTok ban: Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. Their reasoning contains many references to protecting democracy, fighting communism, and a general fear about the relationship between the company that owns TikTok and the Chinese government.

“This isn’t about creative videos – this is about an app that collects data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it’s being used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it’s answering to the People’s Republic of China Senator Rubio said his statement on the proposed legislation to ban TikTok.

Should I be concerned about how TikTok uses my data?

The answer to this question is actually quite complicated as there is a lot we don’t know about ByteDance’s relationship with China and its government. According to a explanation from the Associated Pressthe severity of the threat depends on who you ask and how concerned you are about technology companies using personal data.

The FBI and the Federal Communication Commission both have warned that TikTok could share user information with the Chinese government. (TikTok has already been prohibited for use on federal devices; in other words, if you’re a US government executive, you can’t have the app installed on your work phone. Proponents of the ban point to a Chinese law 2017 that would require companies like ByteDance to provide information to the government when it comes to national security concerns, but according to the AP, there is no evidence TikTok has ever transferred any data. A major incident of alleged documented abuse was in December when ByteDance said some of its employees were illegally obtained data from two American TikTok users who were journalists. As a result, the company is now is being investigated by the Ministry of Justice.

Again, there’s still a lot we don’t know about TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and its relationship with the Chinese government, but U.S. lawmakers’ arguments for this ban also likely tap into a long-running fear of China and communism in general. , in ways reminiscent of Cold War anti-communist attitudes. In his statement on the bill, Rep. Gallagher credits TikTok’s existence in the US with “allowing the USSR to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War.”

TikTok wouldn’t be the first tech company to be accused of mishandling user data. Other platforms, such as Meta-owned Facebook, have encountered documented cases of data misuse and exploitative practices related to their algorithms. For example the Cambridge Analytica scandal provided information from about 50 million Facebook users to the voter profile company, potentially influencing the results of the US election. In another case, Facebook’s algorithm was found to exacerbate the persecution of the Rohingya population in 2017, according to Amnesty International.

There is no documented evidence that TikTok contributed to problems like any of these incidents. However, what makes TikTok unique is that it is owned by a Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which has raised concerns with US politicians. CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, has defended the company and its practices and said divesting the company from Chinese owners offers no more protection than a billion-dollar plan TikTok has already proposed to protect the data of US users.

As a rule of thumb, users should be skeptical about how their data is being used by big tech companies, regardless of platform. We also don’t always know how US-based companies like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter use data, so if you want some good starter tips to protect your data, our friends at The Verge has put together a great guide.

Will TikTok be banned in the US?

We don’t know if lawmakers or President Biden will actually ban TikTok nationally and make it unavailable to all US citizens. At the time of publication, TikTok has already been banned in limited forms in the United States. The application was prohibited on work devices owned by the federal government, and more than two dozen states have also enacted similar bans. In addition, some colleges and universities blocked access to TikTok on campus wifi.


Our CEO, Shou Chew, is sharing a special message on behalf of the entire TikTok team to thank our community of 150 million Americans ahead of his congressional hearing later this week.

♬ original sound – TikTok

We will update this article as more concrete information emerges about the possible ban of TikTok by the US government.

When will TikTok be banned?

We don’t yet know when or if TikTok will be banned, or if it will be restricted in some form. a report from the Wall Street Journal sparked concerns about an impending ban as the Biden administration demanded that Chinese owners sell their stake or face a ban.

In practice, however, a TikTok ban would require a complicated winding down of political and technological steps that could make it more difficult to suddenly take effect across the country. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat on the new House committee focused on US competition with China and a legislature supporting bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok from operating in the US, said further Face the nation that he doesn’t think the app will be banned this year. He gave that interview in 2023, so that gives us an idea of ​​how quickly legislation can change from an insider’s perspective, but the story is constantly evolving. We will update this article as we get more information.

How would a TikTok ban work?

According to a NBC News report which has gathered the advice of four cybersecurity experts, there are a few ways a ban could work out. The first would be to remove it from app marketplaces. This way of enforcing the ban would still leave the app on phones that already had it installed, but it would become unstable and eventually unusable as the company wouldn’t be able to publish updates. The other way the US could enforce a ban is by criminalizing the use of TikTok, but a cybersecurity expert in the report said such measures had never been taken before with a platform as mainstream as TikTok.

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