25th April 2024

TikTok USA Ban

By Harri Brown

Chief Operations Officer

It’s safe to say that TikTok has ingrained itself into the fabric of internet culture since it came on to the scene in 2014 as Musical.ly. However, its journey in the United States has been marred by uncertainty and regulatory scrutiny, which has now resulted in a potential ban in the USA - as signed off officially by President Joe Biden on the 24th April 2024.

But what does it actually mean for TikTok, and will it really happen?

A Brief History of USA Scrutiny of TikTok

TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, exploded onto the social media scene in 2016 and quickly gained millions of users worldwide - becoming the most downloaded app in the USA in 2018.

The tailored content recommendations, short-form video format, and user-friendly interface attracted users of all ages. However, its ties to China raised concerns about data privacy and national security, particularly as tensions between the USA and China escalated.

TikTok US Ban

Ever since, there have been multiple calls for regulation or an all out ban - most notably:

August 2020: the Trump administration called for a ban on TikTok, citing national security concerns and accusing the platform of potentially sharing user data with the Chinese government.

January 2023: TikTok proposed Project Texas; a $1.5 billion plan to move all U.S. data to the United States to alleviate security concerns.

February 2023: the Biden Administration banned TikTok on devices used by federal employees.

March 2023: the US Department of Justice and the FBI held an investigation into allegations that TikTok spied on American journalists, where TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew gave a testimony defending the platform.

May 2023: the state of Montana passed legislation prohibiting mobile app stores from offering TikTok, although this was blocked by a federal judge citing the First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech.

March 2024: House of Representatives pass legislation requiring Chinese company ByteDance to sell off the social media app within six months or be banned from U.S. stores and websites.

The Latest Legislation

The House packaged the TikTok bill with foreign aid to USA allies, including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, which effectively forced the Senate to consider the measures together and ultimately made it more appealing for lawmakers to vote on.

In April 2024, the Senate voted in favour of the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” which compels its China-based parent company, ByteDance, to divest its popular short-form video app within a year - or face a country-wide ban.

If ByteDance fails to divest TikTok within the timeframe, users in the USA will no longer be able to download or update the App on their devices, making it more and more difficult to use over time until, eventually, it becomes obsolete.

What Happens Next?

TikTok has already stated that they have every intention of fighting the ban - meaning it’s likely that it could take several years before the app is blocked (if at all).

Based on the history of the USA’s relationship with TikTok, we expect that there will be a lot of opposition based on peoples’ Constitutional Rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Not only that, but the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child provides that young people have a right to information and a right to play, which could be another hurdle for USA lawmakers.

Antler’s Final Thoughts

We know that TikTok won’t be going anywhere for at least a year - likely longer. There are currently 150 million Americans on the platform, so it’s still worth utilising the platform whilst lawmakers figure out what’s happening next.

What you don’t want is to go dormant and then find the law being overturned, leaving you back at square one with your TikTok strategy!