Is the clock ticking on TikTok?

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

Throughout quarantine, the video-sharing social media platform TikTok became a staple in the lives of younger generations who had more free time on their hands and less motivation to do anything — besides lie in bed while scrolling through endless videos on their “For You” page. Sharing funny videos and recreating dances with friends and family is one of the main activities that made quarantine life bearable. Yet, could the future of TikTok now be threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump and others like him, who see the creative and light-hearted app as a national security threat? Is the clock ticking for TikTok? Or will its owners and dedicated users work together to fight against Trump’s step toward a ban?

Discussions of a ban came as a surprise for many users who utilize the app to express themselves and find humor from others. If this app is an actual security threat, why wait until now to act on it? The app began as, mid-2014, so why has it taken so long for the U.S. government to find any “risks” that come with downloading and using it?

According to a New York Times article, the reasoning behind banning TikTok stems from China’s censorship of the content on the app. The article’s writer, Tim Wu, explained that China can promote their apps and other businesses in different markets around the world, including the United States, but has the ability to close their markets off of influence from the rest of the world. It is unfair that they can explore markets around the globe while other countries cannot explore markets in China, the most populated country in the world. Wu also acknowledges that Trump should not be leading the actions taken against TikTok because “his inclinations are suspect”; rather, other parts of the U.S. government should be leading a ban if there were to be a ban at all. While it is easy to agree with Wu’s argument on China’s unfair usage of the internet, why does TikTok specifically have to be banned? Why does an app or platform need to be banned at all? There should be another way that the United States and other countries can communicate to China that they should have their markets open to foreign businesses. 

It is important to recognize how the public is responding to the possible ban. Many TikTok users and the general public see it as an act of censorship. TikTok’s U.S. demographic  learns about censorship in other countries where popular platforms and television channels are prohibited. I learned that censorship was a government’s way to limit what its citizens can see, specifically information that sways how citizens may feel about their security in that country. To put it in simpler terms, I learned that censorship is unjustified. And as I argued above, there are other solutions besides banning the app and censoring U.S. citizens. Does it make sense to ban a Chinese company in the United States and use censorship here to combat censorship in China? I do not believe so. 

It is also important to point out TikTok’s response to Trump’s actions against them. On Monday, Aug. 24, according to the Wall Street Journal, TikTok sued the U.S. government, making it clear that they are not giving up without a fight. The lawsuit proves that the fight against censorship, and closed off markets more specifically, is far from over.

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