TikTok US ban

Congress is pushing legislation to ban the popular Chinese-owned social media app from most government devices. Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

TikTok hanging by a thread in the US as nationwide ban looms

TikTok may face a US ban as it continues having problems, despite the social media app doing its best to meet the demands of the American government. Former US President Donald Trump said he would ban the app in the US in 2020, supposedly because the app was collecting the personal data of Americans.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance has reiterated several times that the app is not controlled by the Chinese government and does not have any espionage agendas.

When Joe Biden became President, he revoked Trump’s executive order banning TikTok and instead requested the US Department of Commerce to review the apps designed and developed in countries like China, taking an evidence-based approach to see if there were any risks to US national security.

In 2022, TikTok agreed to move its US users’ data to Oracle, which uses servers in the United States.

“100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. We still use our US and Singapore data centers for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete US users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US. In addition, we’re working closely with Oracle to develop data management protocols that Oracle will audit and manage to give users even more peace of mind,” said Albert Calamug, U.S. Security Public Policy at TikTok, in June 2022.

Despite this, many in the US were still not happy with TikTok operating in the country. Congress has already banned TikTok on government devices while states like Mississippi, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wisconsin have also banned the app on state-owned devices. Several universities across the US have also ordered a ban on TikTok on their devices.

In light of this, Cormac Keenan, Head of Trust and Safety at TikTok explained that the social media app has created a Trust & Safety team with US Data Security to build further trust and confidence in the protection of US user data and compliance.

“The newly created USDS Trust and Safety team will work on compliance, safety strategies, and moderation for content involving US users’ private data. Our Global Trust and Safety team will continue to develop global safety policies for the platform and oversee the moderation of content that does not involve US users’ private data globally. Content policies and strategies developed by our global team will be reviewed and approved by USDS to ensure compliance with protocols being developed with the U.S. Government,” said Keenan.

Here’s where it gets more complicated. According to a report by Bloomberg, the House Foreign Affairs Committee may vote next month on a bill to ban TikTok in the US. Representative Micheal McCaul told Bloomberg that this is due to growing concern that the “app gives the Chinese government a back door” into mobile devices.

McCaul also said that he’s skeptical that any proposed firewall between the enormously popular short video platform and its Chinese parent would adequately protect US users. As such, the committee is working on a new bill that combines several proposals to ban TikTok and will address any constitutional issues with a ban.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew will appear before the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee in March. He will testify before the committee, which will also be his first appearance before a congressional committee, according to Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican chair of the panel.

The US will not be the first to ban TikTok. In 2020, India became the first country in the world to ban the app, to protect the country’s sovereignty and integrity.

While a ban on TikTok in the US may be looming, the reality is that the app is still very popular among Americans. As the sixth most popular social media app in the world, statistics show that most TikTok users are in America, making up about 80 million active users. 60% of the user demographics are those between the ages of 16 to 24 while 26% are between the ages of 25 and 44.

When it comes to revenue, TikTok made a whopping US$11.04 billion from ads, which is a 200% increase from 2021. The app’s annual revenue in 2022 was three times higher than the previous year as well.