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TikTok Ban Could Shrink App’s Audience in U.S.



TikTok Ban Could Shrink App’s Audience in U.S.

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Ban gaining support in Washington, D.C.

Awkward dads and their eager children may not dance together on TikTok for much longer — at least not in the U.S. The prospect of a nationwide TikTok ban has escalated from a theoretical possibility to a serious policy consideration, drawing growing support in Washington, D.C.

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Implementation and impact unknown

However, scant details are known about how the policy would be implemented and what it would mean for more than 100 million U.S.-based users of the app.

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Government scrutiny over fears of Chinese influence

China-owned TikTok has faced growing scrutiny from government officials over fears that user data could fall into the possession of the Chinese government and the app could ultimately be weaponized by China to spread misinformation.

Biden administration’s stance

The Biden administration has stiffened its posture toward TikTok in recent weeks, endorsing a bipartisan bill earlier this month that would empower the federal government to ban apps like TikTok.

The administration’s stance hardened further this week, when officials demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owner sell its stake in the app or risk getting banned, the company and a U.S. official previously told ABC News.

Possible ways to ban TikTok

A TikTok ban could take effect in a variety of ways, including its forced removal from Apple and Google app stores or an outright block of access by internet service providers, experts told ABC News.

Savvy users could get around the ban

While dedicated users would find ways to circumvent any government crackdown, the app would suffer a dramatic decline in popularity and eventually be rendered defunct, they added.

App store ban would limit audience

A simple way to significantly curtail access to TikTok is in the form of a mandatory withdrawal of the app from major app stores, such as those maintained by Google and Apple. Such a measure would bar new users and limit existing ones, experts said.

VPN workaround not practical for mainstream users

To access the app, users could use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which allows one to pose as a user logging on from a location abroad, thereby circumventing the U.S.-specific ban. Despite the readily available workaround, the effort required to log in from a VPN will deter many people from continuing their use of TikTok, experts said.

Denial of access by internet service providers

A TikTok ban may take shape as a denial of access imposed by internet service providers, companies like Verizon and AT&T that deliver internet access for individuals, homes, businesses and other institutions, experts said. Customers could potentially get around a barrier from ISPs by using a different SIM card.

Impact uncertain

As with the other solutions, this approach would not eliminate access entirely but would shrink the user base. “The hope with that would be to slow down the flywheel,” Sarah Kreps, director of Cornell University’s Tech Policy Institute, said. “You’re not going to prevent every single user from using TikTok but that would certainly make it much more difficult to use.”



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