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The Clock is Ticking on TikTok

Concerns regarding TikTok began to erupt in January of 2022 but have since evolved. In 2020, the Trump administration issued executive orders seeking to ban TikTok because of concerns about national security and people’s data privacy, claiming that the Chinese government could use the app for surveillance or propaganda purposes. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company challenged this, leading to a delay in implementing these executive orders. 

Once Biden took office, his administration inherited the issue and continued scrutinizing TikTok’s operations, but did not immediately pursue a ban. Instead, discussions focused on potential security measures, such as forcing ByteDance to divest its U.S. operations to American companies. In response, TikTok has taken steps to address concerns about data privacy and security, including establishing transparency and data centers in the United States. However, these steps have evidently been deemed not enough. As of March, the US House has passed a bill that would ban TikTok nationwide if its Chinese owner doesn’t sell its stake in 165 days. This ruling has led to some significant chaos; TikTok’s owners have frantically stated that 165 days is simply not enough time to sell a business so large and complicated. Beyond this, there have been many ramifications and some that could come from this TikTok ban in the United States.

Economic Impact: TikTok has become a significant platform for social media marketing, influencer partnerships, and e-commerce. A ban could disrupt businesses that rely on TikTok for advertising and sales, as well as impact revenue streams for content creators and influencers. Becoming a social media “influencer” has become a viable source of income for some, and seeing as TikTok has become a major platform for these individuals, its ban could prove devastating for the lives of such people. 

User Engagement: TikTok boasts a large and engaged user base, particularly among younger demographics. A ban would deprive users of access to the platform, leading to disappointment and frustration among millions of users. Although this is not as significant as some other ramifications, many people use TikTok and similar platforms to stay connected and be exposed to new things. 

Geopolitical Tensions: A ban on TikTok could exacerbate tensions between the United States and China, potentially triggering retaliatory measures from the Chinese government against American companies operating in China. Though a very intense example, there is a chance for some form of retaliation that could negatively impact the U.S.

Innovation and Competition: The ban could stifle innovation in the social media industry by limiting competition and reducing consumer choice. It could also lead to alternative platforms seeking to fill the void left by TikTok. Similarly, it may reduce companies from other nations’ willingness to pay to expand to the U.S. market due to a worry about their products being banned. 

Data Privacy Concerns: While a ban might alleviate concerns about potential Chinese government influence, it may not fully address broader data privacy and security issues on social media platforms. Users’ data could still be at risk on other platforms and in fact, rather than a ban on TikTok a whole rework of data privacy regulations may be needed to be put in place. 

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