US TikTok restrict: When and for what reason may the app be restricted?

By Liv McMahon, Technology reporter

If the platform’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, doesn’t sell it, TikTok may be banned in the US. TikTok, which has millions of users worldwide, has come under fire for its connections to the Chinese government and data security.

Politicians from all political stripes have pushed for legislation requiring TikTok to be sold to a non-Chinese company, pointing to worries that Beijing would require ByteDance to give up user data on its 170 million US users. There are still concerns regarding possible government access to user data, even with TikTok’s claims to the contrary.

President Joe Biden has signed into law a foreign aid package that was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, which includes provisions for the forced sale of TikTok. This action comes after earlier, unsuccessful attempts—including those made by former President Donald Trump in 2020—to ban the app on the pretext of national security.

Even though the bill was signed, TikTok won’t soon be banned. The law gives Byte Dance nine months, plus an extra three months of grace, to sell TikTok to a non – Chinese buyer. Any possible prohibition would most likely be delayed until 2025 by this schedule, maybe even during the administration of the 2024 presidential winner. If Trump wins, he may try to prevent the ban from going into effect.
ByteDance has promised to challenge the forced sale in court, perhaps leading to a protracted legal battle.

A TikTok ban would have far-reaching effects, especially for creators and companies who depend on the network. UK businesses have issued dire warnings about the disastrous impact such a ban may have on their business.

The simplest way to implement a TikTok ban would be to remove the platform from app stores like Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. This would essentially restrict users’ access to the platform on iOS and Android smartphones.

TikTok’s possible ban in the US would essentially prevent the platform from gaining new users because app stores are the main source for downloading programs to tablets and smartphones. Additionally, future updates intended to improve security and fix bugs would not be available to current TikTok users.

Updates and maintenance for software controlled by nations the US deems rivals would not be allowed within the nation under the new law. This gives the president considerable power to impose restrictions on applications related to countries including North Korea, China, Iran, Russia, and China.

In what way has TikTok addressed the ban?

TikTok has denounced the bill as a “unconstitutional ban” and an assault to the free expression rights of Americans.

Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, stated, “We are confident and we will keep fighting for your rights in the courts.” In a video, he promised viewers, “rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere.”

He had before claimed that the plan would endanger thousands of American jobs and give its social media competitors greater control.

How have American users of TikTok responded?

Many US consumers and producers have expressed their disapproval of the potential prohibition. During a demonstration outside the White House, Tiffany Yu, a teenage disability advocate from Los Angeles, stressed the platform’s importance to her advocacy work. TikTok asked its 170 million American users to contact their legislators in March 2024 and ask them to oppose the measure.

Nonetheless, it seemed that the surge of “confused” calls to senators and congressmen from TikTok users had unforeseen repercussions. A number of lawmakers remarked that the campaign intensified their pre-existing apprehensions regarding the app and strengthened their resolve to enact the legislation.

Is TikTok prohibited in other nations?

It is expected that the US TikTok bill will establish a precedent for comparable measures in other nations. In June 2020, TikTok’s app was banned in India, which was once one of its biggest marketplaces. Furthermore, TikTok cannot be accessed in a number of additional countries, such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Nepal, Iran, and Afghanistan.

In 2023, the UK government and Parliament forbade the use of TikTok on employee work devices, adopting a policy similar to that of the European Commission. The BBC instructed its employees to delete TikTok from work phones due of security concerns.

How much user data does TikTok collect, and what features does it offer?

The main feature of TikTok is its algorithm, which chooses the information that is shown to users depending on their previous interactions. The three primary feeds that users can browse are For You, Friends, and Following.

The program generates the For You feed algorithmically, while the Following and Friends feeds show items from persons they follow and who follow back. For consumers looking for fresh material and for artists hoping for viral success, this feed has taken over as their main destination.

Critics contend that TikTok’s highly tailored approach is fueled by the collection of more user data than other social media sites. Users’ location, device details, content interactions, and typing habits may all be included in this data. However, well-known social media apps like Facebook and Instagram use comparable data harvesting techniques.