US TikTok ban bill sparks anger among users, creators and politicians

House bill still needs to pass Senate and requires President's signature for it to go into effect

A TikTok supporter demonstrates outside the US Capitol opposing legislation aimed at banning the app in Congress. Reuters
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The popular TikTok social media app is at risk of being banned in the US after the House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would force its parent company, ByteDance, to sell it within six months.

The bill still needs to pass the Senate and requires President Joe Biden's signature for it to go into effect.

However, the move has upset many users, creators and politicians.

“It's a big possibility that it could be banned, which is crazy,” TikTok creator Nathan Espinoza, whose uses the handle beowulftiktok, told AFP.

“Lawmakers don't understand how huge of an issue this is.

“My entire comment section of videos that I've posted about this topic are just flooded with an overwhelmingly negative response, where people are not happy with it at all.”

TikTok has been adamant that the Chinese government does not pull its strings.

“A lot of these lawmakers are making it sound like it's just full of Chinese propaganda or it's full of messages from the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr Espinoza said.

“But for me, it's actually been the only social media where I've seen an even representation of all sides of politics.”

Some politicians and users claim the House took up the bill – following several attempts to ban TikTok, either by former president Donald Trump and other politicians – in recent months after the Hamas attack on Israel in October last year, with supporters claiming that the platform pushed pro-Palestinian content.

“October 7 really opened people’s eyes to what’s happening on TikTok” and its “differential treatment of different topics”, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi told The Wall Street Journal.

However, the large presence of pro-Palestinian content and lower traction for pro-Israeli posts may be due to the fact that the app is generally used by a younger demographic, which has skewed towards a higher amount of sympathy for Palestinians throughout the war.

“TikTok does not ‘promote’ one side of an issue over another,” the company said in a statement after the pro-Palestinian accusations.

Many TikTok influencers were flown into Washington this week by the company to participate in a lobbying blitz against the bill.

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok

Mr Espinoza, who recently turned 18, also told AFP that he believes elected officials backing the bill will be in for a “big shock” with he and his TikTok-loving demographic express their ire at the ballot box.

“This is my first-year voting and a lot of people my age are against this TikTok ban,” Mr Espinoza said.

Some politicians spoke against the bill.

“One of the key differences between us and those adversaries is the fact that they shut down newspapers, broadcast stations, and social media platforms. We do not,” ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee Jim Himes said.

“We trust our citizens to be worthy of their democracy. We do not trust our government to decide what information they may or may not see.”

Even Mr Trump reversed his long-held stance after trying to ban it during his presidency.

“There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” Mr Trump told CNBC on Monday.

“There’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok.”

In addition, a TikTok ban would be bad news for small businesses who rely on the platform for marketing or sell products on TikTok Shop – the company’s e-commerce arm.

It would also affect the lives of social media influencers who have spent years cultivating their following on the platform and rely on it to acquire brand deals or other types of income

“There is no sense of community on any other platform in comparison to what TikTok has created,” said lifestyle content creator Steven King, who has an account hosting 6.8 million followers.

Summer Lucille, whose TikTok account called Juicy Body Goddess has 1.4 million followers, described the platform as essential to her plus-size clothing business.

“I have people flying in from California, the UK, Seattle, New York, just to visit my store, just because they heard about me from TikTok,” she said in an interview on CNN.

TikTok influencers take stock as US ban looms

TikTok influencers take stock as US ban of app looms
Updated: March 14, 2024, 6:35 AM