TikTok Ban

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TikTok Ban

TikTok is a popular and addictive app which allows its 1.5 billion monthly users to share and watch short videos. TikTok is controversial, as it is owned and maintained by Bytedance, a Chinese tech company. The national security concern is that the Chinese government may indirectly have access to personal data on the 150 million of U.S. TikTok users, because Chinese cyber security laws allow the Chinese government to mandate companies and private Chinese citizens to hand over data and information on demand. Ironically, TikTok is not available in its current form in China, although an alternative, heavily censored version is. 

In 2019 the U.S. launched a national security review of the app and since that time the U.S. Military has banned installation of the app on all military devices. Many other countries have banned TikTok on military or government devices in general, while some, including India have banned it nationwide.

Last week, President Biden signed a bill that banned TikTok in the U.S. unless it will be divested by its Chinese parent company within the next 9-12 months. TikTok’s CEO has vowed to fight the potential ban in U.S. courts. 

ActiVote has conducted an ongoing survey in the ActiVote app since 2020 to determine what the American people think the U.S. government should do about TIkTok. The 2985 people who weighed in, chose between 5 possible options:

  • The U.S. government should not interfere.
  • The U.S. government should monitor the situation, but not interfere at this time.
  • The U.S. government should audit the company to ensure that no data can get into the hands of the Chinese government.
  • The U.S. government should force the sale of TikTok to a U.S. owner.
  • The U.S. government should shut down TikTok.

The overall opinion of all who weighed in during the past five years shows that almost half believe that TikTok should be audited. Thus, some action should be taken to address possible security risks, but no forced sale or outright ban. The other half of the country is almost evenly split between less action (24%) and more action (28%), including a possible ban.

Opinions have changed over time, with a general increase in a desire to take action, which peaked in 2023 with 34% wishing to force a sale or ban TikTok outright. That sentiment has receded a bit in the first few months of 2024. The plurality opinion continues to be that TikTok should be audited.

As TikTok users skew younger, we expected little appetite with the youngest group (18-29) to take action against TikTok, but that is not the case. Even though there are slightly fewer youngsters wishing to force a sale or ban TikTok than on average, the differences between age groups are relatively small.

The biggest difference in opinion about TikTok is observed by looking at the political spectrum: among those on the left there is very little appetite for a sale or ban (7%), while 43% feels that just monitoring or not doing anything at all will be just fine. Those on the right think very differently: 57% want TikTok sold or banned and only 11% prefer a hands-off approach.

Ultimately, the TikTok sale or ban passed the Senate because it was lumped in with Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan aid. As Senator Booker (D-NJ) indicated: if it had been a standalone bill, he would not have voted for it.

Court cases that will be filed will likely delay either a sale or shutdown. Thus, the 150 million U.S. TikTok users can continue scrolling through videos for a little while longer.

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