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The Gist

  • Goodbye, TikTok? US House of Representatives passed Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, a bill that effectively would implement a TikTok ban in the United States.
  • Really all about privacy? The reason for the bill is to remove the possibility of compromised data privacy and US security.
  • US Senate holds the cards. While the TikTok ban seems unlikely to pass the US Senate, marketers must look at contingency plans within influencers and brand audiences if platforms are looking at big changes.

The US House of Representatives passed this week the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, a bill that effectively implements a TikTok ban in the United States and leaves marketers contemplating their next move.

The prospects of losing access to 1.5 billion monthly active users is no joke, and marketers need to prepare for life without this social media platform, its billions of prospects and the thousands of successful brand influencers — even if a TikTok ban seems unlikely to make it through the US Senate.

Potential TikTok Ban: 3 Takeaways for Marketers

Right off the jump, here are three crucial takeaways for marketers and potential action steps:

Prepare for Shifts in Consumer Engagement

Marketers must anticipate and plan for changes in how younger audiences engage with content. The TikTok ban could significantly alter digital consumption habits, necessitating a pivot to alternative platforms where these demographics are likely to migrate.

Rethink Influencer Partnerships

With TikTok’s potential exit, the value and reach of influencers who primarily use the platform may diminish. Marketers need to reassess their influencer strategy, exploring partnerships across a broader range of platforms to maintain influence and engagement.

Diversify Marketing Channels

To mitigate the impact of the TikTok Ban, marketers should diversify their social media presence and content distribution strategies. Investing in emerging platforms and enhancing presence on established ones like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat can safeguard against future platform-specific disruptions.

Related Article: Did TikTok Just Change the Ecommerce Game?

What Does This Proposed TikTok Law Say?

The act requires TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest from the platform within six months. ByteDance must find a buyer for the app. If ByteDance can’t sell TikTok, the act would force web-hosting companies and app stores to remove the app from the app stores and to ban access through any internet portal. The restriction would remain as long as TikTok is owned effectively by a “foreign adversary,” namely China.

While ByteDance is not owned by the Chinese government, US legislators believe that through ByteDance the Chinese government could access TikTok data for a range of invasive activities, such as collecting personal data shared by American citizens, issuing pro-China propaganda, or using algorithmic programming to interfere in messaging aimed at the U.S. elections. TikTok has denied that they have received any request for US data.

The bill still has to be approved by the US Senate. US President Joe Biden has stated in earlier reports that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. 

The US Capitol Building, shot from outside, showing flag standing on building.
The US House of Representatives passed a bill that could lead to a TikTok ban in the United States.doganmesut

TikTok Ban Attempt Nothing New for US Government

This is not the first time ByteDance faced forced divestment. In 2020, former President Donald Trump ordered ByteDance to divest from TikTok within 90 days. However, the executive order faced legal challenges immediately.

President Biden rescinded the TikTok ban order, replacing it and two others with an executive order that calls for a collaborative review of foreign-owned applications among government agencies on the risks that the applications pose to personal data and national security.

Last year the Montana state legislature passed legislation banning TikTok statewide. Many states and the U.S. government had barred TikTok on government-owned devices, but Montana was the first and so far only state that sought a comprehensive ban that includes consumer usage. However, last November, a federal judge blocked the TikTok ban before it was to take effect this year, calling it “unconstitutional.” The legal battles are ongoing.

Meanwhile, TikTok has taken actions to alleviate the political concerns. NPR reported that TikTok launched Project Texas, a major data-op initiative in which all US user data is managed on Oracle servers in Austin, Texas. The data is monitored by third-party US auditors.

To complicate things further, China’s stance adds headwinds to a TikTok divestiture. The Chinese government has to approve any acquisition of a Chinese firm; China has said it would strongly oppose the forced sale. 

Related Article: What Happens Next to TikTok?

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