Tick Tock, TikTok: Congress’s Decision to Ban

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By: Kaylie Shadburn 

On Wednesday, March 13, 2024, Americans woke up to headlines stating that the United States House of Representatives passed a bill to force TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the app to non-Chinese owners within six months or ban the app for good. 

The news reverberated across social media feeds like a digital earthquake. The looming uncertainty surrounding TikTok’s fate became a pressing concern for users young and old, leaving people wondering — is this the end of TikTok? 

To understand the motives driving this decision, it’s crucial to delve into the intricate web of concerns that have woven themselves around TikTok, prompting lawmakers to take decisive action.

According to Sapna Maheshwari and Amanda Holpuch of the New York Times, there is growing concern among lawmakers and regulators in Western countries regarding the potential for TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, to potentially transfer sensitive user data, like location information, to the Chinese government. 

“They have pointed to laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations,” said Maheshwari and Holpuch.

According to Max Zahn of ABC News, some officials have also raised alarm over the possibility of the Chinese government exploiting the TikTok platform to disseminate false information. This concern revolves around the potential impact on political discourse and election outcomes.

While the news of a ban may come as a surprise to Americans, it is not the first time a country or institution has taken such action against TikTok.

“India banned the platform in mid-2020,” said The Times. “Other countries and government bodies – including Britain and its Parliament, Australia, Canada, the executive arm of the European Union, France and New Zealand’s Parliament – have banned the app from official devices.”

While national leaders are passionately debating the threats of the app, Point Loma Nazarene University students are sparking conversations on how the absence of TikTok would affect them personally. 

Third-year marketing major Evan Olbricht is a local surf photographer who runs his own website and social media channels to market his business. He said as a brand owner, TikTok is a great way for him to share his work and build his audience.

“This ban would make it much harder for me to reach people and it would probably hurt a lot of other small businesses like mine,” said Olbricht. 

Second-year marketing major Ciara Quillinan has another take. She said that TikTok reaches beyond just a form of entertainment for her.

“TikTok is like Google for me. I use it if I need to watch tutorials, or research where to go, or what new trends are happening for my marketing career,” Quillinan said.

According to Hannah Dormido and Adrián Blanco of the Washington Post, the bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 352 to 65, but it still has to pass through the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Joe Biden to take effect. 

Notably, TikTok influencer Chris Olsen addressed this very concern on the app Wednesday morning.

“Even if it does pass through the Senate and makes it to the President, that doesn’t mean TikTok will be immediately erased from our phones,” said Olsen. “There is time. The app is not just going to disappear. But, it is still important to pay attention to the news.”