What happens if the US actually bans TikTok?

  • A bill that could force ByteDance to either sell TikTok or leave the US was passed unanimously on Thursday.
  • Should ByteDance not sell its highly successful platform, TikTok could be banned in the US.
  • This has the potential to limit access to the app in territories outside of the US that make use of US-based products and services such as the Google Play Store.

On Thursday, a bill in the US that seeks to shake things up for TikTok was passed unanimously – with a vote of 50 – 0 – by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The US is rather concerned about the influence TikTok has on those using its short video app, as well as the potential for China to access data about US citizens. Over the years, the US has made many attempts to ban TikTok citing, among other reasons, concerns about the access to the aforementioned data.

Indeed, TikTok has tried to alleviate those concerns, even going so far as to move data from US users to the US. That seemingly wasn’t enough to convince lawmakers in the land of the free that TikTok was fine and it continued to pursue a ban.

Next week, the bill passed on Thursday will go to the House of Representatives for a vote which will determine the next move for TikTok.

The bill seeks to compel ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, to sell the application within six months. If ByteDance doesn’t comply, it would be banned from US app stores.

Shortly after the bill was passed, The Guardian reports that TikTok pushed a notification to its US users calling on them to contact their congressional representative to complain. Users responded to this call and very quickly, representatives were flooded with calls from angry TikTok users.

What happens if TikTok doesn’t sell?

With more than 1.5 billion users worldwide, TikTok is a massive social network but because of its ties to China through ByteDance, the US is concerned that the app could share data with the Chinese government.

Asking ByteDance to sell the platform one to somebody else is tantamount to asking Microsoft to sell off Windows. The company is just unlikely to do it which means that unless ByteDance, TikTok and its users can convince lawmakers otherwise, the platform may be banned in the US.

This is unfortunate for the rest of the world as it could lead to TikTok being removed from the likes of the Google, Apple and Microsoft app stores, given all of those companies are beholden to US laws.

Of course, the app storefronts could just remove the app from the US but we feel that’s unlikely. In 2019, Huawei was banned from using US products which brought an abrupt end to its use of Google Mobile Services. Without access to the software that enables Android, Huawei went from the top smartphone brand in the world to nothing. While Huawei has tried to make its own operating system work, without access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, consumers turned to other brands.

Whether TikTok would be banned from US-based app stores in other countries is unclear at this stage.

However, without the US, there would be a massive hole in the content stream from TikTok. While it may be a global platform, creators from the US tend to make up the majority of content viewed by English speaking users. This would give creators in other countries room to grow but 170 million users suddenly disappearing from the platform would surely have a negative effect on content streams, trends, and even the sounds that become viral on the platform.

Despite all the talk from US lawmakers about banning the platform, it’s one of the few regions where TikTok Pulse is available. This programme shares advertising revenue with creators and we’d hope that if the US is no longer an option, TikTok expands the programme to other countries. However, we should point out that many of the world’s biggest brands and advertisers, are based in the US which means that TikTok would have to rely on non-US advertisers for its revenue.

If TikTok isn’t sold and it’s banned, the situation is going to get messy, not just for the US but other regions as well.

The only thing left to do is wait until the House of Representatives vote on this matter and then see how things play out.


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