On August 6th, the Trump Administration announced an Executive Order that is set to impose sanctions against TikTok. Unless bought by an American-owned company within 45 days, any transactions between ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, and U.S. citizens will be banned.
The administration has cited national security concerns over the short-video app, stating that TikTok gathers large amounts of information from its users, including location and internet search history. The White House declared in the Executive Order, “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information --potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
According to NPR, TikTok has downplayed its ties to Beijing, claiming it collects the data on U.S. users and is stored mostly in Virginia. But it also seems that many users of TikTok simply do not care about how much data the app collects. According to The Guardian, studies show that Gen Z is more tolerant of targeting advertising and less bothered by surveillance, with only 37% of Gen Z actually being concerned. One TikTok user, Annie, went as far to say how “It feels a bit ridiculous to worry solely about China when it seems everyone else is literally recording us as we grow up.” And this is a perspective unique to this Generation, they have literally grown up with seemingly every ounce of their information being taken from them. Their whole lives have been recorded on social media; in their minds what is the difference with this situation.
The ban also includes WeChat, which is commonly used around the world to communicate with friends, read news, and carry out business transactions. It seems that WeChat is more at risk than TikTok, which is in the talks with Microsoft to buy out the U.S. branch of the company. If WeChat is ultimately banned, much of the informal communication between people in the United States and China could be cut off. The company’s shares fell almost six percent on Friday.
As aforementioned, Microsoft has been in discussions to acquire TikTok, but what this truly means is difficult to say. A spokeswoman from Microsoft declined to comment to the New York Times on the details of the deal but did say that “we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok,” hinting that there are major plans in the works. It is even more difficult to understand and explain how lengthy the deal could be because even though TikTok has attempted to distance itself from its parent company, it is still integrated within ByteDance’s Chinese operations. Separating the app from its parent means separating it completely from its operating system.
If Microsoft were to acquire TikTok, they would include the buyout of not only American services, but also Canadian, Australian and New Zealand services as well.
Many members of Generation Z have found the social media platform as an outlet for not only entertainment, but also information. While it is known that this is not the most reliable source, it gives this young generation a voice to speak out on a platform where they can be heard. Even if it’s not politics, they can reach people that are like-minded or have similar interests, and connect to the world.
And TikTok isn't the only app that works towards spreading information to its young users. Snapchat, for example, recently added in-app voter registration in order to encourage their young audience to vote this November. The Snapchat feature will include registration, a resource guide, information on the different voting options, and a voter checklist.
While some agree with the President on his Executive Order, others feel this is impeding on free speech; yet one thing is for certain, the clock is TikTok(ing) on the future of the app unless Microsoft or another company buys it out.