The life expectancy of the popular short-form video platform and mobile application – TikTok – is again on shaky ground within the U.S. as lawmakers and government officials have initiated a state-by-state crackdown on the use of the app on government-issued devices including mobile phones and computers.
Back in mid-December 2022, several states, including Alabama, Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Texas outlawed the use of the app by employees on state-owned devices. This comes nearly two years after a similar crackdown in 2020, that saw the military’s ban of TikTok on government-issued smartphones.
These bans happened almost overnight. Within two weeks, 19 out of the 50 states restricted access to TikTok on all government-owned computers according to a Reuters article last month. In addition to the ban, certain school districts, and other public sectors have now also introduced individual restrictions for users.
This however isn’t the first time that the Chinese-owned social media app has taken center stage on the government’s agenda.
In 2020, former President Donald Trump and the Trump Administration highly questioned the integrity and privacy features of the mobile app. Back then Trump called to restrict nationwide access to users from downloading TikTok if the parent company, Bytedance, didn’t sell to a U.S.-based firm.
Now two years later, the Biden Administration overturned Trump’s efforts, yet this time state-level concerns could prompt further federal intervention in the coming year.
Yet, maybe Trump was right all along about TikTok and its dark underbelly.
TikTok grew to become a global sensation during the height of the COVID-pandemic in 2020. The app has roughly one billion active users and has become one of the most popular social media apps for sharing short-form videos.
The influence of the app has been felt across the spectrum, especially among younger users that see TikTok as a platform through which they can build a personal brand and generate income. Creators that can also be known as influencers in some circles have generated substantial cash from the videos they post and share online.
According to Zip Recruiter, creators and influencers can make up to an estimated $54,379 annually based on figures for 2022.
Small businesses have also gained massive support and following through the platform. In a report by CNN, business owner Callie Goodwin of Columbia, South Carolina told the network that roughly 90% of her current orders for her business come from people who discovered her content and business via TikTok.
From personal finance advice, make-up tutorials, and business sales, TikTok’s mammoth influence has made it increasingly hard for lawmakers to conclude whether it’s possible to introduce a full or partial ban on the application.
While there are several positives about the app, and its growing popularity, ongoing social debates over algorithm changes, and wary outrage cycles have led some users and creators to question the increasingly dark side of the app.
Then there are issues related to TikTok’s keystroke tracking methods which track users’ characters across the in-app browser. In August 2022, TikTok, alongside then publicly traded Twitter became the topic of controversial data handling practices.
At the height of the controversy, researchers were questioning how social media applications were tracking and handling consumer data, highlighting once again that consumers can’t trust social media companies and their lack of data transparency.
Allegations related to privacy and data issues have meant that lawmakers are now starting to seriously debate TikTok’s future within the US. While it’s uncertain what the outcomes will be, the Biden Administration has been trailing months’ worth of bans and restrictions on Chinese-based businesses and investments.
President Biden has in recent times been working to prevent China from developing advanced chips and has limited US investment in Chinese tech. Additionally, the administration has drawn up plans to restrict Chinese-based apps to collect information and data on Americans, which some experts claim is a direct retaliation towards Bytedance-owned TikTok.
TikTok’s future in the U.S. is looking uncertain, yet many claim that the influence and market presence of the mobile app will prevent it from completely vanishing from American soil in the coming year.
The ongoing trials have in recent days led TikTok to halt all hiring for consultants that look to assist with the implementation of a proposed security agreement. This comes as opposition to the mobile app intensifies, and state-level restrictions start to place pressure on the future of the short-form video app.