There's So Much at Stake With TikTok on the Clock

The U.S. Senate will decide its fate

The U.S. Senate could soon decide TikTok's fate following last week's vote in the House of Representatives that would effectively ban the app from operating on these shores.

On one side, some lawmakers argue that TikTok's Chinese ownership poses a national security risk. Others say such concerns are trumped by the need to foster free speech and support content creators who make their living (or run side hustles) via the app.

There's a lot at stake. In fact, banning the app could trigger a domino effect of epic proportions.

TikTok is valued at $50 billion, hit 1.92 billion users in 2023 and is expected to reach 2 billion by the end of this year. The app that "inspires creativity and sparks joy" serves as a platform for over 150 million Americans to grow their business and contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy in 2023.

Notably, the venue has served as a platform for music discovery. According to a 2021 study, 75 percent of users said they discovered new artists through TikTok. Also, 63 percent of users heard new music for the first time on the app. In 2023, it partnered with Billboard to launch the weekly TikTok Billboard Top 50.

TikTok provided a much-needed distraction during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 100 million users engaged through lockdowns. And while the app didn't invent the "internet challenge," it made them a phenomenon.

These challenges, both wholesome and horrible, plus the duet feature, brought people together. And while the "Blinding Lights" dance challenge will make your day (courtesy of The McFarlands), others, including "Blackout,” "Milk Crate" and "NyQuil Chicken," made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

It's hard to believe we've all been chasing the elusive, ever-changing social media algorithm since Facebook rolled out its News Feed in 2006, yet TikTok is credited with bringing the "For You" page to the masses. Twitter/X added “For You” as a toggle with “Following” just last year.

Earlier this month, I came across @destroynectar’s viral tweet/post asking, "What video is the reason they shouldn't ban TikTok?" The thread, which has been viewed 521 million times, serves as a curated collection of fan favorites. It’s where you'll learn that kids pranking their parents with news that their favorite artist has died is a thing.

In the event of a shutdown, Meta (owner of Instagram) will likely see a tremendous boost in users migrating over to create content for Instagram Reels (itself inspired by TikTok's short-form vertical videos). But that's a boost that Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, isn't necessarily rooting for. 

In 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order that could have banned TikTok in the U.S. At the time, IG argued that any short-term benefit that Instagram would see from a potential TikTok ban is "greatly outweighed by the risks of a fragmented internet."

It's amazing how quickly the app's woven itself into the fabric of daily life and digital commerce.

Should the feds pull the plug, the web won't unravel. But for better or worse, TikTok is a vital part of the cultural fabric. Without the platform, a wealth of pastimes, experiences and business ventures will never be the same.

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Leslie Richin
Leslie Richin is a digital media strategist and freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. In addition to Muse, she has contributed to Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Spin, Paste, Adweek, Spotify for Artists News, PopMatters, ABC News, Bethesda Magazine and Curl.

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