The Controversial Fight over TikTok


Kailyn Cho, Staff Writer

According to The Guardian, TikTok currently has over 150 million users in the United States. When the Biden administration announced a potential ban on the app, protesters rallied at the Capitol in Washington D.C. on March 22, 2023 to express their opposition. 

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance, sparking apprehension in the U.S. government. Biden claimed to ban TikTok if the owner doesn’t sell their stake. It was assumed that ByteDance, as a Chinese company, is forced to give all data collected from its app to the Chinese government, meaning that all personal information and data from TikTok users go into the hands of Chinese authorities. Several countries have already banned TikTok, including India, Pakistan, while Canada, Taiwan, and the U.K. have restricted access. 

Many of those who support the ban of TikTok see the app as a national security threat, since it tracks and records data from its users. Especially as data is collected from many teenage users—their location, age, message content, and photos—many parents and government officials are frightened as this endangers teenagers and the country’s privacy. However, others argue that most apps have just as little protection of personal data as TikTok in order to improve their addictiveness and quality. 

On March 23, 2023, there was a hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who spent five hours in front of the US Congress. He was questioned about the security and safety of the app from Chinese influences. Defending TikTok, he stated that “American data is stored on American soil by an American company, overseen by American personnel.” He denied the claims that the Chinese government keeps records of US user data collected by TikTok, addressing the worries that many parents and government officials had. However, not all members of Congress were convinced, as some of Chew’s claims were not accurate. He claimed that TikTok actively removes misinformation and harmful content to keep the platform safe. Yet a representative, Kat Cammack, presented a TikTok video posted for almost two months, containing violent and harmful messages. She asked Chew, “You expect us to believe that you are capable of maintaining the data privacy and security of 150 million Americans when you can’t even protect the people in this room?” 

To many people, TikTok provides a space for small-business owners to expand their platform or for teachers to extend their classroom space to encompass millions of people. When used positively, TikTok provides many ways for people to share their stories and communicate over long distances. Many of the signs protesters held explained how TikTok had given them a voice and created a community. During the pandemic, TikTok especially helped create a space where users could still socialize and communicate with others going through similar emotions and experiences, despite the circumstances. TikTok also worked with creators to promote and spread awareness about COVID-19 vaccines, playing a big role in helping the world return back to normal. For many users, TikTok has become more than an app, but also a job and a lifestyle. Many companies rely on TikTok for business, and this platform has been especially helpful in keeping many informed with worldwide news. 

Through the rally against this ban on TikTok, many influencers and supporters are hoping that those in the White House will rethink their position and realize the major role this platform has in millions of people’s lives, not just in the US, but worldwide.