Americans are facing a world without TikTok and Australia could be next.

Imagine a world without social media.

Now imagine a world specifically without TikTok — no silly dance videos, no endless TikTok scrolling, and having to resort to Instagram Reels for entertainment instead.

That's what 170 million Americans are potentially facing — that's almost half of the entire US population.

Last week, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would give TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the US assets of the short-video app or face a ban in the country.

It's unclear whether China would approve any sale or if TikTok's US assets could be divested in six months.

If ByteDance fails to do so, app stores operated by Apple and Google could not legally offer TikTok or provide web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications in the US. It could mean bidding fare-thee-well to TikTok for American users.

Watch: TikTok responds about the decision to ban their app on Australian Government devices. Post continues below.

Video via Today.

The bill still has a long way to go before being made into law in the US, but TikTok undoubtedly faces an uncertain future in America right now.


The prospect is pretty jarring. Imagine not being able to use one of the most popular social media apps. Imagine not being able to scroll endlessly through the app's very encapsulating algorithm. Sure, there are other social media platforms where you can have a similar user experience — but not having access to one of the biggest platforms in the world would take some getting used to. American Gen Zers would likely be devastated.

Matt Warren is the Director of RMIT's Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation. He says the concerns the US government has identified regarding TikTok and its influence are important to consider.

"The concerns are about a few things. First, the app itself in terms of the amount of data it can extract from people's mobile phones, and the algorithms that can be used to share fake news and harmful content," he tells Mamamia.

"Then the second real concern from the US House of Representatives though is ByteDance, the company behind TikTok. It's a Chinese analytics company and they have access to all of this information."

As per the Chinese Intelligence Act, Warren says the Chinese Government can ask any Chinese organisation — including ByteDance — to share information with them about their customers from a 'security perspective'. 

"ByteDance has been very clear that they don't actually hold data in China. But again, this hasn't been proven."


Interestingly, America isn't the first country to look at banning TikTok.

Back in 2020, India said they would be banning TikTok due to security concerns after a deadly clash with neighbouring China. Tensions spiked between the two countries in June 2020 after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a border clash with Chinese troops in the Himalayas. The ban was made permanent in January 2021.

And although Australia certainly hasn't banned TikTok generally speaking, our leaders decided to ban TikTok from all Federal Government devices back in April 2023.

That decision came from the Attorney-General, who gave a mandatory direction to Commonwealth departments to ban the social media app. The Attorney-General said the call had been made after receiving advice from intelligence and security agencies. The concerns related to worries about spies, and the potential for TikTok data to be harvested and accessed by the Chinese government under the said Chinese national laws that can compel companies to hand over information.

The government device ban followed several nations doing similar, including New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, some parts of the US, India and the European Commission/European Parliament.

Of course, a ban on everyone rather than just government devices is very different. Though this is a future that's looking more and more likely for all Americans.

The same questions about potentially banning TikTok for good in Australia have already begun. Though Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stressed this week that a total ban is not on the cards.


Another question some are asking is whether other social media platforms could face a similar ban. It's unlikely, notes RMIT's Warren, though it raises very valid conversations.

"There's been real concerns around the TikTok app for a number of years. When we look at Facebook and Meta, they also have all this information and data. But Facebook has governance mechanisms in place and they don't openly share data with the US government or other governments. I think the TikTok example is really about the concern of the influence China and Chinese technology is having," he says.

"At the end of the day, it's the role of governments to protect citizens. Sometimes governments have to make the right decision to protect a population that isn't going to be very popular with voters. This isn't a decision that's just sort of come out of the blue. It's taken a long journey to get to this point."

It will certainly be interesting to see if the US TikTok bans comes into fruition. In the meantime, a message to American users — doom scroll to your heart's content while you still can.

With AAP.

Feature Image: Canva.

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