Countdown for TikTokers as video craze faces US ban
Chinese-owned site has 45 days to find a buyer or feel the wrath of Trump, says Michael Cogley
For millions of young people, posting on TikTok has become a way of life. Now, the threat of a complete ban of the app in the US has left many in turmoil.
“I really hope this doesn’t happen. All the videos, all the memories, this can’t be true. I’m going to miss you all,” the singer Andra Gogan told her 5.2 million followers.
President Donald Trump has given TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, six weeks to arrange a sale of its US operations or face a ban amid concerns Chinese ownership poses a security threat – something TikTok has denied.
A campaign called #SaveTikTok has since begun trending on the viral video site after Michael Le, who has 35.7 million followers, sought to mount the resistance from within.
“2020 has had so many tragedies and TikTok has been one of the most positive outlets for us all,” he said.
“Although it has had its flaws, this one app has created a community of people from all over the world that’s been able to bring joy and inspire people. It’s been able to give me the opportunity to support my family and have my voice.” Le is one of thousands of users that have accrued massive followings on the app and are scarpering to protect their newfound income.
With 800 million users globally and two billion downloads, TikTok has garnered widespread appeal through its lip-syncing and dance videos, and a formidable artificial intelligence algorithm that feeds fans an endless stream of short videos.
It has become a cash cow for influencers. Creators with more than two million followers are estimated to earn around £25,000 each year through brand deals. The highest-paid star is 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio, with 74.8 million followers, who earns more than £37,000 per post.
Engagement rates on TikTok videos are much higher than those paid for on the likes of Instagram and Twitter, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub. The data analytics firm said that paid-for posts with users on more than 100,000 followers can result in almost five-times more click-throughs than other social media sites.
Furthermore, Max Beaumont, who built a following on TikTok documenting his journey of selfimprovement, says TikToker success on other platforms isn’t guaranteed.
TikTok has become “fundamentally an escape for a generation right now in isolation, especially, that needs it,” Beaumont says.
“Just because you can have a massive following on something like TikTok doesn’t necessarily translate over to YouTube or to Instagram”.
Should a ban be introduced, the Trump administration may find it tricky to deal with industrious Gen Z users who have figured out workarounds. Perhaps one of the most common will be the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs, where users can masquerade their location as though they’re logging in from somewhere else.
American TikToker Carew Ellington, who has 429,000 followers, has encouraged users to change their “general language and region” settings to Canada, in order to access the app.
Such measures might not be needed if TikTok is bought by a US company. Many TikTok users cheered Microsoft as a white knight. In one video, a user blew kisses in front of a backdrop of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Reports say other Western companies are also interested in TikTok.
But with 45 days to agree a deal that would please Trump, the future of the app’s users remains far from certain.