Biden Administration Moves Forward With TikTok Ban

On March 15, a source close to TikTok reported that the Biden administration is threatening to potentially ban TikTok in the U.S. if the app’s Chinese owners refuse to sell their stakes.  In recent years, TikTok rose to fame and garnered a billion users on its platform, making it the most popular app of 2022. As a result of TikTok’s ownership by Beijing-based company ByteDance, which is subject to Chinese laws requiring it to hand over customer information to the government, national security concerns were raised. Many other countries, such as Canada, Britain and Denmark banned TikTok from all government-issued phones. 

“I see my English four class using [TikTok] more often,” English teacher Lensey Sardar said. “But, not as often as it used to be. Even I use TikTok.”

The app is widely popular among teenagers and young adults. According to Wallaroo Media, 32.5% of TikTok users are within ages 10 to 19 with 60% of users being Generation Z. There are many reasons behind TikTok’s large popularity. According to the Guardian,  the app has easy-to-use creation tools which makes the app simple to navigate. However, the secret weapon behind TikTok’s success is its ‘For You’ page which targets content to each person. 

“Most of Gen Z does not remember a life before technology,” senior Nam Ngyuen said. “TikTok has a unique algorithm that uses a ‘For You’ page. To have a ‘For You’ page means that they specialize to your needs. Therefore, you constantly keep looking through [the app]. [Video length] definitely does affect us. Because every video is so short, we often lose track of time because we believe ‘this is just another one minute video, what’s the hurt?’ We don’t realize that we become entrapped when that one minute video turns into a part two, part three, part four.” 

On March 23, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During a five hour appearance in Congress, Chew answered questions regarding safety concerns. Chew testified that TikTok prioritizes the safety of its younger users and attempted to persuade lawmakers not to pursue a ban on the app or to compel Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to give up its ownership stake. 

“Do I think [the court hearing] is fair?,” Nguyen said. “No. Do I think it’s just according to [the] U.S. government? Yes, because there are many situations where a court hearing isn’t fair but it is just.” 

According to CBS, if a ban is enacted, it won’t be immediate. Lawsuits countering the ban are expected from the platform. In the case that the ban survives these lawsuits, it would most likely result in companies like Google and Apple removing the app from their app stores.  

“There’s definitely some downsides and benefits to banning the app,” Ngyuen said. “One of the first issues that arises with the banning of this app is increased xenophobia. Ever since COVID became a huge outbreak in America, a lot of Asians had to face repercussions. Some people genuinely live off of TikTok and get information from it. Talking about the benefits, it’s quite interesting to see [Democrats and Republicans] work together to say ‘TikTok may be a dangerous thing.’”