The Future of TikTok, Explained

BY IAN LEI, MARTA LEIRA and SOPHIE LEWIS   SEPT. 18, 2020
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What should I know?

  • On Friday, U.S. Commerce Department officials released guidelines prohibiting downloads and updates of both TikTok and WeChat after Sunday night.1
  • On Aug. 6, President Trump issued two executive orders stating that if TikTok and WeChat were not sold by their Chinese-owned parent companies within 45 days, the platforms would be banned in the U.S.2
    • The order cites national security concerns as a justification for the ban, due to TikTok’s alleged data collection practices.
    • This action was met with backlash from creators.
  • Previously, software company Oracle emerged as a potential partner in supporting ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. However, given the newly released U.S. Commerce Department guidelines, the future of that deal is now uncertain.

What’s the wider background?

  • Tensions between TikTok and the U.S. began rising in early July, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. was seriously considering banning TikTok due to the Chinese Communist Party being able to access user data.6
    • On Aug. 6 and 14, Donald Trump issued two executive orders that forced ByteDance to sell or spin off TikTok’s U.S. business.
  • Trump’s conflict with TikTok reflects the deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China.

What are the larger implications?

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Commerce Department said it would order a full ban for TikTok by Nov. 12 but noted that discussions for a deal that would incorporate data safeguards could enable U.S. users continued access of TikTok.”8
    • While TikTok would still largely be usable after Sunday night, WeChat—a popular messaging app used by both Asians and Asian Americans—risks becoming near-unusable.9
    • A group of WeChat users in California filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in August, claiming any proposed WeChat ban would be unconstitutional.10
  • As TikTok users prepared to potentially lose access to the app—which for some is just a pastime, yet for others a source of income—downloads for other video sharing apps have increased.12
    • Facebook Inc.’s Instagram Reels has also emerged as a competing platform, yet it lacks TikTok’s capacity to generate revenue.15

In a Quote:

“I’m very thankful for [Oracle and TikTok reaching an agreement]. Since Covid happened, a lot of people have lost their jobs. For some of us, [TikTok] is our only source of income. It’s a huge blessing if we’re able to keep it... If it is a done deal, there is definitely a sense of relief and a sense of peace.”

-Ryan Kelly, a 25-year-old TikTok influencer, in reaction to news of a tentative deal between Oracle and TikTok, via CNN Business.16


References

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-says-he-will-ban-wechat-use-in-u-s-after-sunday-night-11600429988
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/06/politics/trump-executive-order-tiktok/index.html
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://medium.com/@whoismax/dear-president-trump-an-open-letter-from-the-tiktok-creator-community-e56b21c682fb
  5. https://www.cnet.com/news/tiktok-users-rejoice-over-oracle-deal-but-saga-with-trump-isnt-over/
  6. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-tiktok-timeline/timeline-tiktoks-journey-from-global-sensation-to-trump-target-idUSKCN2510IU?il=0
  7. https://time.com/5876610/tiktok-china-tech-war/
  8. https://www.wsj.com/articles/commerce-secretary-wilbur-ross-says-he-will-ban-wechat-use-in-u-s-after-sunday-night-11600429988
  9. Ibid.
  10. https://www.wsj.com/articles/lawsuit-claims-u-s-wechat-ban-is-unconstitutional-11598059765
  11. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tiktok-users-focus/tiktoks-u-s-users-prepare-for-life-without-the-video-app-idUSKCN24F13A
  12. Ibid.
  13. https://time.com/5875788/instagram-reels-tiktok/
  14. https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-shutting-down-lasso-tiktok-clone-instagram-reels-2020-7
  15. https://digiday.com/media/publishers-instagram-reels/
  16. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/14/tech/tiktok-oracle-user-reaction/index.html