TikTok ban draws from misguided motivations

The TikTok ban bill made its way through the Senate, and it will officially take effect sometime between January and April of 2025. So what happens now? 

TikTok has stated immediately that they will file a lawsuit with the U.S. court system. While the case is under judicial review, the 270-day timer on the ban will be put on pause, and only reinstated if the courts decide that the ban is constitutional. This 270-day countdown is how long TikTok has before it is officially banned in the United States, but if Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok, sells the app to an American investor, then the ban won’t happen, but Bytedance is not going to sell. 

TikTok is the most used app in the world, boasting 3.5 billion total downloads and 1 billion active users. Bytedance has absolutely no reason to sell TikTok just for the American user base. The United States has 170 million active users on TikTok, which is less than one fifth of the total users on the app. This pales in comparison to Douyin, the Chinese counterpart to TikTok, which has over 750 million users and is also owned by Bytedance. Bytedance is not even close to being financially dependent on the U.S. market, so selling the most profitable app in the world so that a small portion of the users can continue to have access to it would just be a bad business decision. 

So Bytedance is not going to sell TikTok, but they are going to fight to keep it available in the United States assuming they lose the case and knowing that they aren’t going to sell, what happens if the 270-day timer runs out? How will TikTok be banned entirely? 

TikTok is not just going to magically disappear from your phone. The government can’t do that. What they can do is force it to be removed from any type of app store so that one can’t download it. Along with not being able to get any new users, the current users won’t be able to update the app, and eventually it will no longer run on the version that the United States is stuck with, so the TikTok ban is going to be a slow burn rather than an instant removal. 

The issue that the U.S. government is going to face is that even if they take TikTok off the market in the United States, that’s not really going to entirely stop people from using it. There will be a couple of ways to get around the TikTok ban. One way would be to simply change the location on your phone to somewhere outside the United States, and then TikTok would reappear in the app store. Users could also use a VPN to trick your phone into thinking that you’re outside the United States as well. Users could also access it if they just took a vacation to Europe and happened to download it while they’re there. The TikTok ban is far from foolproof, but the thing is that it doesn’t need to be.  

Obviously, the U.S. government is aware that people can get around the ban with things like a VPN, but it doesn’t matter. The TikTok that is used in America runs on different servers than ones in other countries. Connecting yourself to a different country will only produce videos in that language, made in that country. Many U.S. citizens are going to get no entertainment value out of watching videos in a different language. Even if people went and searched for their favorite content creators that they used to watch, what they’ll find is that there won’t be any new content. Many have already migrated to different platforms already, such as YouTube, and they won’t be coming back, so the TikTok ban is going to have the desired effect. 

The implications of a ban of this caliber against such a popular app would be huge in the United States. 

Drake Gelhaus is a senior at the high school who views TikTok as something that has become a valuable learning tool. Gelhaus points out many things, namely that TikTok has simply become a significant source of entertainment and information, and for him personally, education. Gelhaus says that the bite-sized format of the app makes learning about new topics more accessible and engaging. Beyond Gelhaus’s own experience, he said that losing TikTok would remove an outlet of creative expression for many people, and that losing TikTok would deprive them of an opportunity to showcase talent. People have built careers off of TikTok because it is a more accessible outlet and easier to get started on than many other social media platforms. There are thousands of artists, small businesses and other influencers that rely on TikTok to reach their audience, and losing it could disrupt their livelihood. TikTok has become an integral part of the lives of many, many people, and losing it would suddenly open a gaping void of isolation and boredom within the U.S. population. 

Gelhaus said she believes that the cited reasons for the ban—data privacy, security, the potential spread of misinformation—are not enough to justify the outright ban of something that would restrict the freedom of expression and creativity for millions, and the entertainment value for millions more. Gelhaus said that the concerns over the spread of misinformation and data privacy are certainly something that can be addressed, but there are much better ways than a blanket ban. 

Some students, such as junior Ross Stuber, are harsher in their opinions about the decision on the ban. Stuber considers this as just another poor attempt to dump more money into the pockets of larger corporations and remove the platform of thousands of small businesses that have built and sustain their brand with this app. Stuber said he believes the reasons for the ban are “Flawed, incorrect and inherently stupid. The reasons weren’t based on any facts, rather speculations without any proof, and they didn’t even let the CEO explain or defend his app.” Stuber said the main reason for the ban is the U.S. government’s allegation of a link to China and not much else. He said this ban is more of an attack on China than it is an act of protection for the U.S. citizens. 

Sophomore Violet Etheredge also calls out the government for only targeting TikTok as the problem. Data privacy concerns, campaign influence and subtle manipulation are prevalent on every other popular social media platform, most notably the selling of data to advertisers. She said singling out TikTok for these while leaving every other app unscathed is what leads to the conclusion that this is more about the fact that TikTok is based in China than anything else. 

Junior Jacy Nielson provides another perspective that the TikTok ban could actually be a good thing. Nielsen said that TikTok has become an addictive app that sucks people in with 10-15 second videos that are nothing but nonsense and fill one’s head with nothing actually impactful. Nielsen said she believes that TikTok is not really bad, but also just not worth anyone’s time, and that there are better things users could do with all the hours they lose scrolling.

TikTok is a topic of much discussion. For better or worse, it has given millions of people a platform, some of whom use it to grow a career, and others who just create enjoyable but pointless entertainment. The issues presented in the argument against TikTok, of data security and privacy are definitely areas of concern, and are valid, but they are prominent amongst the majority of social media, and just singling out TikTok will not solve the problem. A ban on TikTok is not entirely bad, since for many people it would only be a minor inconvenience to switch back to YouTube or some other social media platform. A case can be made that banning TikTok has positives, but right now it is most definitely being done for the wrong reasons.

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