Tik Tok, the widely used social media application, is under threat of banishment in the United States due to concerns about its parent company, ByteDance, hosting user data in China and thus being privy to sharing this data with the Chinese government. This user data includes items such as name, date of birth, location, and more. ByteDance adamantly denies that China has any access to US-based user data, but given the long history of Chinese spyware allegations and data privacy concerns, both Republicans and Democrats alike have united in their concern that TikTok represents a national security risk. As of August 2nd, President Trump put a hold on banning the application while Microsoft negotiates the acquisition of the application in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. This is the story you likely have already heard, so we don’t want to beat that into the ground.
What today’s blog will cover is the repercussions might look like should President Trump go through with this action. Without introducing debate around the efficacy and constitutional legality of such an action, there are plenty of talking points that need to be discussed when contemplating a world where this action is possible. Here are a few that may be worth considering.
Who would suffer from this?
This is probably the main question I’ve been asking myself as well. Social media platforms are often marked by their relatively short lifespan, and people migrate with relative ease, however, there will absolutely be casualties associated with the banning of TikTok. The entertainment industry will likely take the biggest hit from this as many talent scouts have used the application to find new talent. Other agencies sign influencers to deals to produce content, and this would be disrupted should the application be banned. Users would likely move to other platforms without any real issue, so I don’t include them as being negatively affected by this decision.
What will happen to all the influencers who used TikTok?
Social media influencers represent a newer occupation within our increasingly digital society. TikTok specifically attracts users in the teens to early 20s, which is a marketplace that every major business looks to capitalize on. People in Generation Z have flocked to this application as a means for consuming short-form entertainment, news, and much more. As it has been on every major social media platform that has lived and died in the last 20 years, should TikTok be shut down, the producers and consumers will simply move on to other areas. The most comparable situation to this was when Vine shut down, and while many millennials would agree that Vine is superior in every way to TikTok (myself included), content creators moved to other areas like Instagram and YouTube. Comparable outlets such as Clash, Dubsmash, and Byte may serve as replacements for the application should it be shut down.
Is data collection a big enough deal to shut this down?
Various lawmakers within both Republican and Democrat camps agree that Tik Tok represents a security risk to the country. You may have read about the various lawsuits formed against Facebook for the sharing of private user data, and the issue with Tik Tok is similar in nature. Given the amount of pressure President Trump’s administration has placed on China over the last year, it should come as no surprise that he wants to remove any security risks that involve them. Data privacy concerns have been a huge talking point in the 21st century, and this issue fits squarely within that camp.
What happens next?
As mentioned above, the latest reports suggest that Microsoft is willing to purchase the application services for the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. This would alleviate many of the data privacy concerns that make up this issue as Microsoft is a US-based company subject to US law. This may be the only hope for TikTok in the US, and should a deal fall through, we will likely see the application banned from use. The follow-up arguments would likely be about the President’s ability to legally conduct this action. As it seems today, TikTok is safe in the US for at least the next 45 days.