Is Banning TikTok a Good Idea?

2 min
Tags: TikTok ByteDance social media app ban user data

Is Banning TikTok a Good Idea?
The pros and cons of a ban.

TikTok, the famous Chinese social media app was released by ByteDance in 2017. It has grown wildly in popularity, going from just over 80 million users at the start of 2018, to 1.5 billion at the end of last year. However, the platform has not been without contention. Most recently, on March 23, CEO Shou Zi Chew addressed the US Congress regarding swirling concerns over the viral app. Lawmakers peppered Chew with questions, some advocating a limitation of its use and some seeking a complete ban, which has been implemented in some countries, such as Afghanistan and India, while many others, including Canada, Belgium, and the United Kingdom have settled for a ban only on the devices of government employees.

Would a ban be a good thing, and for whom?

Misuse of data is one of the biggest concerns regarding TikTok, with concerns expressed over the potential for data to be handed over to the Chinese government as per China’s own policies around data.  TikTok has been accused of harvesting more data than other social platforms, and this data, along with information on what millions of Americans are watching, makes data privacy a large concern in terms of domestic security and US-China relations.

Negative content remains a huge concern on the platform, with algorithms promoting weight-loss and disordered eating. TikTok’s scrolling mechanism is also addictive; when your brain sees something it likes, it gets a dopamine hit, which is what feeds the need to keep watching. Many parents may breathe a sigh of relief to know that its reach may be curtailed, despite the implementation of a screen-limit time of one hour for users under the age of 18 in March. However, teens may just not feel the same way.

Other social media platforms such as Meta, and Snapchat would undoubtedly welcome reform, mainly to protect their bottom line, but also Silicon Valley China hawks, who are wary of China’s involvement in the tech industry.

Who then, would stand to lose with a ban?

Although a ban may be beneficial, everything comes at a cost.  Banning TikTok in the U.S. may be an infringement on the First Amendment, as a violation of freedom of speech. Preventing a nation from accessing content is comparable to censorship, and the Supreme Court recognizes that the First Amendment does not only protect the right to speak but also the right to receive information, which would presumably include TikTok.

A ban may accelerate U.S.-Chinese tensions. Some are concerned that China may retaliate against American companies’ operations in China if this takes place. While the U.S. has been able to ban new Huawei equipment sales, it may not be able to do the same with TikTok.

Businesses and the economy would also suffer.

Oracle, an American based company enlisted by ByteDance to store American user’s data would lose a major client as a result of this ban.

Small businesses and content creators rely on TikTok for cheap advertising, a source of income, and also a way to express themselves.

Generating 780 million dollars for advertisements in 2020, losing TikTok would definitely hurt the U.S. economy, effecting more than just TikTok’s 94 million monthly users.