TikTok got popular as a platform for dances and funny skits but has since evolved. Now it’s a place for learning about everything from how to write your first book to what the smartest money moves are in a down economy. Creators from every walk of life use TikTok to share their knowledge. But now, legislators across the country are discussing–and implementing–bans on the social media platform.
The thought of a “ban” can be justifiably terrifying. Especially for those whose livelihoods and audiences have been built on the platform. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the legislation, it’s not a doomsday scenario, yet.
What actually is prohibited under the TikTok bans?
You’ve probably seen headlines talking about TikTok bans. But unless you’ve taken a deeper look you might not know what actually is being banned. President Joe Biden signed a TikTok ban into law in December after it passed through Congress. A move that followed state legislators that had already passed similar pieces of legislation. But the bans only apply to government employees, government devices and in some cases, government wireless networks.
So, it’s no big deal for most people who use TikTok personally or for their business. If you’re at home on your personal cell phone using TikTok for personal or business reasons you probably aren’t breaking any rules. However, if you’re a government employee, it’s best to discuss the situation with your manager. Even if you’re running a personal account–to avoid any headaches later.
Colleges and universities
Along with federal and state bans, some colleges and universities have implemented bans of their own. More than a dozen major universities, including the University of Texas, Austin, have banned TikTok. And on some campuses, those restrictions apply to the wireless network, as is the case at Arkansas State University. This has prohibited users from accessing the mobile application on their phone if they’re logged into the campus wireless network even if they’re using their personal devices.
Why do people want to ban TikTok?
There’s bipartisan support in Congress for banning TikTok. And the main argument centers around the potential threat to national security that TikTok may pose. The app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech giant. And in 2019, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States started an investigation into potential risks. ByteDance has been accused of accessing TikTok users’ data, including monitoring the specific locations of Americans.
Legislators are predominately concerned that the Chinese government could use the app to suppress criticism and influence elections. ByteDance denied accusations that another of its apps, TopBuzz, promoted pro-China messages to U.S. citizens.
Will there be a more strict TikTok ban?
TikTok has more than 1 billion global users. This raises the question of whether it’s too big to shut down completely. A total ban on the platform could be the end of one income stream for content creators. And a ban would reduce access to educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. Bans on college campuses have caused pushback from students. Indicating that a more stringent ban could cause further backlash.
The Biden administration is in talks with TikTok on a data security deal that TikTok said would address security concerns. The company met several of the Biden administration’s initial requests and the company expressed confidence that a “timely” agreement could be reached.
However, legislators in Congress have argued for an outright ban on the app. And in November Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told Axios that he didn’t see a path forward without a ban. While an outright ban is possible, it would mean angering a significant portion of the population and one that’s becoming an increasingly important voting bloc.
So, for now, TikTok is mostly safe.