Is TikTok’s Time Ticking Down?


If certain members of the U.S. government have it their way, you won’t be able to watch TikTok videos for much longer.
On March 15, TikTok said that the Biden administration was pushing its owner, Byte Dance, a Chinese owned company, to sell the app or face a possible ban. TikTok is a short video app with over 1.53 billion users and over 1 billion videos watched every day, according to the latest updates on Mar 21, 2023 by Wallaroo Media.
In 2017, Byte Dance purchased the app and merged it with TikTok for $1 billion. Since the app has become so massively popular with young people, some U.S government officials fear TikTok will leak sensitive data to the Chinese government and thus threaten U.S. national security.
“A Chinese company owns what has become America’s number one culture maker right now,” Sapna Maheshwari, a Times reporter who covers TikTok, said.
On March 23, in a congressional hearing with TikTok’s CEO Shouzi Chew, the U.S. government contended that TikTok is a weapon for the Chinese government to use for surveillance purposes.
According to a June 22, 2022 article in Buzzfeed, Byte Dance engineers in China had accessed American users’ data. Byte Dance admitted that employees spied on journalists and obtained IP addresses. However, they declared that the employees were fired. Chew also denied supplying the private information of American citizens to the Chinese government.
But he wasn’t quite as convincing as American lawmakers were hoping.
Florida Congressman Neal Dunn asked Chew if Byte Dance is spying on American citizens. Chew’s response was, “I don’t think spying was the right way to describe it.”
Elsa Frankel, a Williston senior and avid TikTok user with more than a million likes and six million views, typically posts content related to math. Elsa believes that the excessive attention to security concerns has been a distraction from TikTok’s uniquely positive influence.
“It’s an incredible tool for artists to find recognition, which isn’t as much of a ‘national concern,’ but still one I’d like to bring up,” Elsa said.
Users like Elsa consider the problem from a different perspective than government officials, focusing more on the content and usage of the app.
Elsa said if TikTok were banned, she would suffer from a social loss.
“Migrating to another platform like Instagram would be doable, but I’d lose many amazing people I’ve met in the mathematical community through the algorithm and overall experience,” she said.
The algorithms and community TikTok has created is irreplicable for people who have a close connection to the app. However, users who are less invested in the TikTok experience tend not to be concerned with security as much.
Daniel Zhang, a senior at Williston, is simply not very concerned with the potential ban of TikTok.
“I use [it] to kill time. I don’t really care about a data leak, and I spend hours on TikTok,” he said. “I don’t care about the data leak because it doesn’t directly affect me.”