With over 100 million active American users, the popular social media platform TikTok is known for its catchy dances, comedy skits, and addictive algorithm. TikTok’s popularity and rapid expansion is heavily attributed with Generation Z and millennials. Oakland Tech senior Indigo Ayele, a member of Generation Z, shared that she was drawn to the app because “there’s an endless amount of content created by teenagers and it’s a way to share views while finding relatable people.”
TikTok, a Chinese social media platform created by the merger of TikTok and Musical.ly, was formerly unknown outside of the Greater China region until its proliferation in 2019 and 2020. TikTok remained relatively under the radar following the purchase but caught public eye when several lawsuits and allegations claimed that the app was harvesting data from users and secretly sending the information to China. The Trump Administration labeled the app as a “national emergency…that continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” within an executive order declared on August 6th. It detailed how TikTok captures search history, location data, and other network activity information from users allowing for the Chinese Communist Party the space to conduct corporate espionage and build a dossier of personal information for blackmail. The executive order stated a subsequent ban against ByteDance to be imposed following 45 days of the order’s creation unless a “very American” company (as stated by President Trump) would buy TikTok. A week from August 6th, a separate executive order was issued by Trump that called for ByteDance 90 days to divest from its American assets and to any data gathered in the United States.
Following the executive order, TikTok spokesperson Josh Gartner expressed his dismay towards the Commerce Department’s decision in a statement, saying, “We will continue to challenge the unjust executive order, which was enacted without due process and threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the U.S. of a significant platform.” TikTok then proceeded to sue the U.S. government claiming that the administration failed to provide evidence that the app was an actual threat and lacked justification for its punitive measures.
Roughly forty five days after the first executive order on September 18, the Trump Administration said it would ban TikTok beginning midnight on September 20th. The app would be allowed to function until November 12th, but users would not have access to updated apps and software maintenance. The next day, President Trump declared that he had approved a deal between TikTok and an American software maker, Oracle, creating the U.S.-based company TikTok Global which would oversee TikTok’s international operations. Oracle, Walmart, and additional American investors would own 53% of the app, placing a majority equity in the hands of American companies and investors. The completion of this landmark deal has saved the preferred social network of many American teens and indicates significant reshaping of the digital economy.