TikTok is a social media platform from the giant Chinese technology company Bytedance. Rolled out in 2018, the app’s insanely accurate recommendation algorithm and easy-to-use videomaking features has turned the app into a mainstream platform for everyone from influencers to stock traders. In a very short period of time the app has garnered over 100 million users every month in the United States alone.
Along with the attention the app has received from their exponential growth in popularity comes scrutiny from lawmakers in the United States over its roots in China as President Trump has continually labeled the country as an enemy throughout his time in office. There have been concerns raised over the Chinese government’s influence over TikTok content moderation and the apps access to its American users’ data. These concerns lead to the launch of an investigation at the end of 2019 in a hope to uncover any potential nation security risks that the app may present.
To make matters worse, in July of 2020 TikTok’s userbase made a false claim in reference to the anticipated attendance for a major Trump rally in Oklahoma. It was then that the Trump administration made their first public announcement that they were considering banning TikTok in the United States. There were two options being considered: a directive for Bytedance to sell its TikTok operation in the United States, or a nationwide TikTok ban. Trump put in to motion his first executive order by setting a deadline for the company to find an American buyer by September 20th or he would block any transaction between Americans and the company.
Soon after this executive order from the President, The Commerce Department stated that it was issuing an order that would block downloads of the app beginning on September 20th and would fully shut down the app on November 12th. The department cited the same concerns that lawmakers around the United States have made saying that China had the ability to access data on its U.S. users.
In response to this, ByteDance argued that the Trump administration had a political agenda against the company and relied on “anti-Chinese rhetoric.” Many influencers also proclaimed that banning the app would infringe their first amendment rights. To the companies favor, the Commerce Department stated in November that they will not be enforcing the shutdown of the video sharing platform. According to The Wall Street Journal, a federal judge in Pennsylvania wrote that the Commerce Department had overstepped their authority when it tried to ban the application. He issued a preliminary injunction to postpone the clampdown. Even though things are falling in Bytedance’s favor at the moment, are they completely in the clear?