Is TikTok Really Going To Get Banned In The United States?

Photographed by Beth Secca.
Things are moving fast with TikTok: On July 28, the Sway House boys announced they're abandoning TikTok for competitor Triller and cited "privacy and security concerns." The next day, it's revealed Triller sued TikTok for copyright infringement. The day after that, President Donald Trump confirms to reporters that he is intent on carrying out a TikTok ban and opposed any deal to sell it to Microsoft or U.S.-based investors. (As it currently stands, Microsoft has 45 days to broker a suitable deal to acquire TikTok. This is, so far, TikTok's best hope of staying in the United States.)
Advertisement
Over the weekend, famous TikTokers bid their teary goodbyes while TikTok's general manager took to the platform to ensure all 100 million American users that the app isn't going anywhere.
This story was originally published on July 10.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted on Fox News that he and the President are "certainly looking at" the possibility of banning Chinese social media apps, most prominently, TikTok. TikTok currently has over 800 million active users all over the world and has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity since it was first introduced in the U.S. in 2018.
The natural question to follow is:
"Is that possible?" And to that I say: Never say never in the year of our Lord 2020.
When it comes to social media platforms, TikTok is like that new girl that gets picked on for dethroning the popular girls. For one, it's a Gen Z darling, so it scares millennials. Number two: it's owned by a Beijing-based company called ByteDance. And lastly: it's beating out the competition — Instagram, YouTube, and even the creators of Vine all tried to compete with TikTok, and I challenge you to name their versions of the popular app.
For years, politicians (most prominently, Republican Senator Marco Rubio) have led probes and raised all kinds of concerns over TikTok — from censorship to national security. In that same stretch of time, TikTok has shared information on its servers and hired a former Disney executive as their new CEO. It recently came under fire for its draconian content moderation rules, especially how they affect Black creators. But it's 2020 and Instagram still censors nipples and over policies sexual educators at every turn, so every platform has its own issues to work through.
Advertisement
Currently, TikTok is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department after some advocacy groups accused the platform of failing to live up to its promise to delete videos and personal information of users under 13. The U.S. seems to be publicly flirting with the idea of a TikTok ban following India's decision to ban nearly 60 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat. India's ban came after a border clash with China earlier this month that resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers. 
Just today, the New York Times reported that Amazon sent an email demanding employees remove TikTok from any device that also has access to their corporate email account. The email was later revealed to have been sent by mistake.
So far, anyone that works for the TSA, the State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security have been banned from using TikTok on government-issued phones. The Pentagon has advised all military departments to do the same. Meanwhile, experts maintain that it remains to be proven if TikTok poses a significant national security threat.
So while a deadly pandemic and rampant inequality rage on, the U.S. government is looking into sticking it to China by banning TikTok. For a hint of the impact: out of TikTok's 800 million users around the world, U.S. users only make up about five percent. Let us indulge in Chinese streetwear fancams while we still can.
For the sake of argument, let's ponder what a TikTok ban would look like. In light of China's recent law that would empower police officers to demand user data from internet companies, TikTok is voluntarily shutting down operations in Hong Kong. This means it will no longer be available to download through Google or Apple there. In India, a post-TikTok world is already taking form with Instagram's TikTok competitor, Reels kicking off testing this week.
Of course, TikTokers are already cracking jokes. But despite the adolescent indifference, it was revealed just how shocking the loss would be earlier this week. When a glitch on the app resulted in zeroed-out like counts, people took to Twitter and Google in a seeming panic to see if these were the early signs of a TikTok shutdown. Turns out, it's not. At least not for now.

More from Tech

R29 Original Series