TikTok ban could hit US — here's everything we know

TikTok ban US
(Image credit: SOPA Images / Getty Images)

Industries, influencers and teens are preparing for a TikTok ban that could strip the most popular social media platform of late from U.S. users. 

In recent weeks, U.S. government officials have proposed a TikTok ban, citing national security concerns raised by the gathering of information by a foreign state. 

Although there is limited evidence that TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance (opens in new tab) is an active threat, U.S. lawmakers could follow India’s lead in prohibiting the social-media app

On June 29, India announced a ban on 60 Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok. The move came after a violent clash in the Himalayas earlier in the month escalated tensions between the two countries. 

The New York Times (opens in new tab) reports the ban is a form of retaliation, with India blocking Chinese telecommunication companies from profiting off its internet boom. 

According to the research firm Sensor Tower (opens in new tab), India has been the biggest driver of TikTok installations, delivering 30.3% of the total Iife time downloads of the social media app. 

As a result, India’s vehement TikTok ban has launched several peripheral probes into ByteDance and the data it collects from users. 

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S, for example, is reviewing the ByteDance acquisition (opens in new tab) of American company Musical.ly that morphed into TikTok two years ago, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News (opens in new tab) on July 6 the White House is “certainly looking at” banning the apps.

“Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said when Fox News asked if people in the U.S. should install TikTok.

According to Reuters (opens in new tab), TikTok has about 26.5 million monthly active U.S. users. Although 60% are between ages 16 and 24, the app is used by sports teams, news outlets, celebrities, musicians, influencers and more. 

Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) reports the music industry in particular relies on TikTok for growing artist brands, and could face negative repercussions if a TikTok ban is enacted.

(Image credit: Future)

Will TikTok get banned?

The U.S. government has not approved a formal plan for banning TikTok, though lawmakers are pushing for fast action against the app from multiple angles. 

Republican Senator Josh Hawley proposed a bill called ‘No TikTok on Government Devices Act (opens in new tab)’ that would ban federal workers from installing TikTok on government-issued devices. The New York Times (opens in new tab) says the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will review the bill on July 22.

Some companies with concerns of data privacy have already issued policies prohibiting employees from using TikTok. Wells Fargo banned TikTok from company devices on July 13 after learning “a small number (opens in new tab)” of employees had it installed on their corporate phones. 

Amazon, meanwhile, instructed employees on July 10 to delete the app from their personal devices, but has since backtracked on that edict. An Amazon spokesperson told The Verge (opens in new tab) that company correspondence regarding the ban was “sent in error.”

TikTok’s U.S. team hasn’t stayed quiet amid the ban threat. It seems to be taking steps to distance itself from ByteDance, including hiring former Disney streaming chief Kevin Mayer (opens in new tab) as its CEO. It also launched an initiative with creators on July 16 to combat misinformation, according to FastCompany (opens in new tab).

"There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok right now,” said TikTok head of U.S. public policy, Michael Beckerman in a statement (via CNN (opens in new tab).)

TikTok ban date: When TikTok getting banned could happen

In an interview with Gray Television (opens in new tab) on July 7, President Trump said the U.S. is considering a TikTok ban, confirming Pompeo’s statements to Fox News.

No sweeping legislation has been brought forth to ban TikTok for all U.S. users, but conversations that take place during the No TikTok on Government Devices Act debate on July 22 could be telling of future action. A TikTok ban for government workers may add weight to concerns about TikTok’s handling of user data.

A recent discovery hasn’t helped TikTok’s case, either: Forbes (opens in new tab) reported last month that Apple's iOS 14 identified TikTok as one of the several apps snooping on user's iPhone clipboards

When security researchers reported a similar data privacy issue (opens in new tab) earlier this year, ByteDance allegedly denied (opens in new tab) intentional involvement and vowed to fix the issue. But with new iOS 14 users able to receive "paste" warnings when apps are reading their clipboards, TikTok may have found itself dancing on thin ice.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.