Buckle up because this is a long, winding road through the TikTok apocalypse timeline, taking us through questions such as “what is free speech” or “to whom should we give the fundamental right of collecting our data?” This year, TikTok has proven to be more than just an app where people showcase their dance skills and lipsync abilities. The app has had a large political and social influence in the USA. When President Donald Trump organized a rally in Tulsa on June 20, TikTok users encouraged people to register for the free event and not show up. This resulted in President Trump taking to Twitter to brag about the million people who registered for the event when, in reality, there were only 6,200 people who actually showed up at the rally. A few weeks later, the Trump administration mentioned a TikTok ban.

On July 6, Secretary Michael Pompeo was interviewed by Laura Ingraham of Fox News. In this interview, Laura Ingraham asked Secretary Pompeo about a possible ban on Chinese apps because they are reportedly “full of mass surveillance and propaganda” and has “the ability to feed information straight to Beijing.” The Trump administration’s biggest fear was that TikTok can relay private information to the Chinese government. However, this doesn’t seem like an unfamiliar topic as apps like Facebook have been collecting private information for years and have been profiting on it ever since the app’s creation. Nonetheless, TikTok was still labeled a massive security threat, but nothing official was enacted until a month later.

On Aug. 7, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would essentially ban Chinese social media apps, such as TikTok and WeChat (the main channel of communication between U.S. and Chinese citizens). President Trump wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.” TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, faced a deadline of Sept. 15 to sell its operations to a U.S. company. This caused chaos in the TikTok community; most creators were going live and giving out their information about where to follow them if TikTok got banned. During this time, Microsoft was negotiating with ByteDance on buying TikTok. However, Microsoft released a statement that the deal fell through, presumably because of the security changes Microsoft would have made.

Phone with TikTok and WeChat app icons showing superimposed over the U.S. and Chinese flags
TikTok and WeChat have become central to the battle between Trump and China.
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

So where does TikTok stand now? The Commerce Department announced that on Sept. 20, the app would no longer be available to download on any app stores. The insanity continues, though, as that same weekend, President Trump agreed to a tentative deal between Oracle, Walmart, and ByteDance. The deal between these three companies demonstrates that data collection is fine as long as it is done by U.S.-based companies (ahem: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, the list goes on), but the moment that data is being sourced outside the U.S., then it’s a big problem. Returning to the tentative deal — it pushed back the ban on TikTok by a week, giving the companies more time to reach a consensus. A deal was not struck by Sept. 27; however, a federal judge halted the ban hours before it was supposed to go into effect. The judge did not publicly explain why he halted the ban, nor will we get to find out because he filed his opinion under seal.

To conclude this crazy saga, a more comprehensive ban will be taking place a week before the Nov. 3 election. At this time, there are no details as to what that ban will entail. For now, that is the end of this crazy TikTok ride.

Featured image: Courtesy of Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus

Author

  • Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

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