Everything TikTok users need to know about a possible ban in the U.S.

Author: Editors Desk, Shira Ovide, Tatum Hunter and Heather Kelly Source: The Washington Post
May 29, 2024 at 09:44
(Illustration by Elena Lacey/The Washington Post; iStock)
(Illustration by Elena Lacey/The Washington Post; iStock)

TikTok and eight video creators have challenged the forced sale or ban of the app. Here’s how and when a potential ban could affect you.

Eight avid TikTok posters joined the company Tuesday in challenging the new law that requires a sale or ban of the app in the United States.

What’s next for TikTok and those of you who use it? Should you delete TikTok and walk away from your communities or livelihood on the app? Read on.



Is TikTok really going to be banned?

Not yet.

With backing from TikTok, eight people with relatively large followings on the platform asked a federal appeals court to overturn the law signed last month. It’s an ultimatum to TikTok’s owner, the Chinese technology giant ByteDance: Sell to a company that isn’t Chinese within about a year or face a ban on the app in the United States.

TikTok, ByteDance and the eight users said the law violates the First Amendment by seeking to outlaw an app that’s used for free expression.

TikTok and ByteDance have also said the government overstepped the Constitution by targeting a single company it dislikes and by failing to consider alternatives to potentially banning TikTok.

Previous attempts to ban Chinese apps in the United States including TikTok have stalled in court. The legal outcome this time is unpredictable.

Any ban on TikTok in the United States would not happen for many months or possibly years. But this is the closest the United States has come to kicking out an app used by an estimated 170 million Americans.


When might TikTok be gone?

The law gives TikTok 270 days — about nine months — to sell to another company, with an option for a 90-day extension if “significant progress” is being made to sell TikTok.

That means TikTok is likely to keep working well past the November presidential election. The legal challenges from TikTok, ByteDance and the group of app users may slow or stop the timeline for a forced sale or ban of TikTok.

TikTok could sell the app instead but …


Could TikTok find a new owner in time?

The odds may not be great.

China’s government has previously said it would strongly oppose a forced sale of the app.

And a purchase of TikTok would probably cost tens of billions of dollars or far more. Few people or companies have that kind of money — and companies that do, such as Meta or Google, probably won’t try to buy TikTok because antitrust regulators are unlikely to allow it.

TikTok and ByteDance have said that selling TikTok is “simply not possible.”

The likeliest outcome, then, is the government will attempt to ban TikTok, and a court will have to decide whether such a step violates the Constitution.


Why do they want to ban TikTok?

Many U.S. government officials worry that China’s government can force TikTok to hand over data from Americans’ smartphones or manipulate the videos people see on TikTok toward the preferences of the Chinese Communist Party.

Those concerns are largely hypothetical. U.S. officials have not made public evidence that TikTok has been systematically manipulated by China’s government.

But the officials say the only surefire way to remove the national security risk is to force ByteDance to sell the U.S. version of TikTok to a non-Chinese owner or kick the app out of the United States entirely.

The officials who worry about TikTok also say it is a unique risk to U.S. national security. The app is used by roughly half of Americans, and it functions like a TikTok-programmed nationwide TV channel that could influence Americans’ views about elections or the Israel-Gaza war.

In their court filing, the app users said members of Congress targeted TikTok because they disagreed with the views of some popular videos, including those about the Israel-Gaza war.

Legislators have also grilled TikTok’s CEO and other executives over the spread of child sexual abuse material through their apps and the potential harm to children’s mental health from social media use.

Those concerns are not specific to TikTok.


How can I save my TikTok data?

For now, your experience should remain the same on the app, but you can start planning for a potential shutdown. See whether your favorite creators also post on other apps and follow them there, too.

If you post to TikTok, make sure your videos are backed up by going to your profile → Settings and privacy → Account → Download your data.


What are the alternatives to TikTok?

TikTok clones are everywhere.

YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels and Snapchat’s Spotlight are also feeds of short vertical videos tailored to your tastes.

If TikTok is actually removed from app stores in the United States, we’ll probably see more companies trying to come up with alternatives. That’s what happened after Elon Musk bought Twitter.


What does this mean for creators on the app?

The eight TikTok creators who challenged the sale-or-ban law said they use the app to discuss books and Bible lessons, connect with sexual assault survivors or show Americans what it’s like to work in agriculture.

They said there are no good alternatives to TikTok for sharing their views, promoting their businesses and earning income from their videos.

House aides familiar with the TikTok legislation previously told The Post that they believed CapCut would also have to be sold or banned. The ByteDance-owned app is widely used to create short videos on TikTok and elsewhere online.


How can I protect myself on TikTok?

As for the concerns being voiced by lawmakers, you should decide for yourself on your personal risk tolerance when it comes to TikTok.

If you’re uneasy about watching or posting on TikTok, the safest step is not to download or use the app at all. Even if you like using TikTok, or your child does, it’s worth considering changes to keep your information more private from the company and other people on the app.

Don’t share your contacts with TikTok: The app will repeatedly ask for permission to access the contacts on your phone or link to your Facebook account. That data can reveal more than you expect about you or your friends. Read more here on how to check your current TikTok settings or change them.

Set up a new and more anonymous TikTok account. Create an email address that you use only for your TikTok account.

Block TikTok from collecting information on what you do outside its app. On iPhones and Android devices, say no when the app asks for permission to track you — or, even better, adjust the setting so no apps can do so.

Watch TikTok videos on a web browser instead of in the app. You won’t get a personalized feed of videos or be able to follow specific accounts, but you can just watch individual TikTok videos on the web without downloading the app.

For parents, TikTok has a feature to link their accounts with a teen’s. You can control settings including daily time limits for the app and who can comment on your teen’s videos.

Possible TikTok ban

President Biden announced he has signed legislation to ban or force a sale of TikTok after Congress passed legislation to ban or force a sale of TikTok, delivering a historic rebuke of the video-sharing platform’s Chinese ownership.

What the bill does: The bill, which saw bipartisan support in the House and Senate, would require the social media app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell off the immensely popular app or face a nationwide ban. Here’s what you should know about the potential ban.

What’s next: The provision gives ByteDance roughly nine months to sell the wildly popular app or face a national ban, a deadline Biden could extend the deadline by 90 days. TikTok is expected to challenge the measure, setting up a high-stakes and potentially lengthy legal battle over the app’s fate.

Reactions: TikTok creators say a ban would threaten their lives and livelihoods, while young users of the app previously asked Congress why they aren’t focusing on “bigger problems.”

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