The looming TikTok ban: What it really means

April 5, 2023

Roxanne Denman

What it really means

We all want to express ourselves within our chosen communities, whether it be with friends, family, or even colleagues. While some social situations limit us to verbal interaction, other human forms of expression include singing, dancing, laughing, and socializing.   

Since we live in a digital world, t makes sense that as we digitize, we use these places to do the activities ingrained into our very being. As we struggle to connect in an ever-evolving isolating world, we respond to the platforms that allow us to be unashamedly ourselves. 

Enter TikTok - the vast digital terrain that liberated people globally, a place for creating, documenting, and sharing vivid short videos. The pull? The community. No one feels isolated here. Like-minded individuals connect with a cleverly-crafted algorithm, aiding users to see content they enjoy and express themselves fully.  

In 2020 and 2021, BryteDance’s TikTok claimed the top download spot, due to losing our ability to connect face-to-face and our inability to undertake normal daily activities. The platform offered fun step-by-step dances that we learned along with our favorite celebrities and became a staple in homes with teens struggling to cope with isolation.  

With this enormous pull, the vivid platform snared the furthest reach. With 2.5 billion daily users worldwide (if you count their Chinese version Douyin, more on that later),  the video content giant surpasses social media trailblazers Facebook and Instagram. When it comes to marketing, this is one of the platforms where you have the best chance of going viral. 

But the walls are crumbling. 

You may have heard of the looming ban on the app synonymous with expression and creativity. As more details emerge, the revelations about how much personal user information TikTok shares are damning. 

Data privacy across international borders is an ongoing concern, and TikTok allegedly shares more of it than any other app. The most concerning part is that it isn't clear where this data is going. 

What are the main concerns?  

On March 23, CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the USA congress. It took 5 hours. 

One investigation revealed that ByteDance accessed American user data for surveillance operations, with a report conducted by Forbes indicating that 300 TikTok employees have close links to Chinese media publications. Their reason? “Employees bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”

While this may not mean anything to you, the U.S. intelligence community and Biden Administration have raised concerns about American data falling into Chinese hands. If any evidence presented is correct, China can conduct influence operations mainly aimed at the American public. (Something they’re not too pleased about.)

With the immense TikTok following in the U.S., the platform can direct and amplify content aimed at millions of American users. With children and teens having daily access to the app, American officials are worried the Chinese state can pressure TikTok into covertly influencing the U.S. public. Some other countries with partial or total bans on TikTok are Taiwan, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Belgium. 

The kicker? Chew testified that his own children did not have TikTok.

China does not use TikTok

Instead, they use Douyin, an approved counterpart that limits kids to using the app for 40 minutes daily. I did some digging, and the content on the vitamin version sees fewer dancing teens and lyric-powered videos, with videos encompassing self-improvement, photography, travel, trivia, life hacks, and (of course) cute videos of dogs and cats.

While you can download Douyin from anywhere, it isn’t as easy as getting the app in the Google Play Store or App Store. To use Douyin outside of China, you need to jump some digital hoops. 

Social media is a superpower

You can tell us to take off our tin hats now. But hear us out. 

Social media has an immense power to influence, and why those using platforms to earn money are called influencers. The digital world is where marketing activities reign. With 4.89 billion users worldwide, it's not hard to see why.  

With power comes responsibility, and it seems like governments globally are taking theirs solemnly to protect users against TikTok. With mental health emerging as a top priority, platforms that divulge our information must give us answers. Why are you sharing our private data, and what are you doing with it? 

With TikTok facing a lawsuit over the mental health condition of a user's suicide, we think it's time we all looked at our use of social media and started demanding changes for the better. 

What we think

As education marketers, we don’t specialize in espionage and surveillance activities. We use research and analytics to craft marketing materials to reach our target audience and speak to them with the hope of helping our clients increase conversion rates. 

But we also invest in ethics, sustainability, and privacy. We always aim to obtain personal information from consumers with their permission, relying on data and analytics for the rest of our insights. 

TikTok connected many during hardship. But if the evidence is sufficient and they are unlawfully releasing information and using that information to influence people, especially minors, we must end it. Content should never be harmful. 

How will the world look if the TikTok ban is entirely successful? Post-apocalyptic? Unlikely. We are sure if the platform falls, others will take its place. The digital world is resilient - if TikTok loses the battle and is no more, you can be sure a new app will be coming to a device near you.

Are you a marketer curious to learn about the aspects that affect our industry?

Or do you want to tap into our expertise to sharpen your tactics? Look no further than our free downloadable resources. We work hard to research our content - and offer it to you - free of charge.

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Explore the true implications of the looming TikTok ban with our free ebook: Understanding the social algorithm.