TikTok was banned in India in 2020 – could the U.S. outlaw it, too?
The Biden administration recently threatened to ban TikTok in the U.S. if its owner, ByteDance, a tech firm based in Beijing, doesn’t sell its stake in the company.
U.S. officials are concerned the Chinese government will use TikTok, a social media app that features short videos, to access private user data or spread misinformation. Threatening to ban TikTok is the administration’s most significant move in its crackdown on the app.
Citing national security concerns, the White House announced in February that federal agencies will have to remove TikTok from all government-issued devices. There are exceptions for “law enforcement activities, national security interests and activities, and security research.”
If TikTok were banned in the U.S., where would its users go? Facebook? Instagram? Youtube? Advertisers want to know as well.
Here are five charts that look at TikTok’s global dominance:
Would TikTok users switch social platforms if it’s banned?
A recent Cowen Group poll gives an idea of what TikTok users would do if it were shut down in the U.S.:
TikTok’s global growth
Even as TikTok faces challenges in the U.S, Canada and Europe, the platform’s growth prospects remain strong. About 60% of the world’s social network users live in the Asia-Pacific region where TicTok is based.
The fastest-growing social network this year in the Asia-Pacific will be TikTok. According to Insiderintelligence.com, it gained more users in 2023 than Instagram, a much larger rival in the U.S. (13.6% vs. 7.3%).
After a geopolitical conflict with China, India banned the app in June 2020, citing a law that permits the government to block websites and apps in the interest of the country’s “sovereignty and integrity.”
Though TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, it’s unclear how many people use the platform. China censors internet access, which makes it difficult to determine how many people use the app in China. In 2016, TikTok’s current parent company, Bytedance, launched the app, which is known as Douyin in China.
Top 10 countries that use TikTok
India had the most users before TikTok was prohibited in the country. The U.S. has the most TikTok viewers today.
Breakdown of US TikTok users
How much time do Americans spend on TikTok?
The popularity of TikTok in the U.S. complicates a potential ban. The app has been downloaded 400 million times in the U.S. That’s more times than any other social app since August 2018, according to Apptopia.
American users spend nearly an hour each day on TikTok, more than any other social network.
Why the concerns about TikTok?
The FBI and the Federal Communications Commission say that ByteDance could share TikTok user data with China’s authoritarian government.
China required companies starting in 2017 to give the government any personal data relevant to China’s national security. There’s no evidence TikTok has given up data, but U.S. officials are concerned because TikTok collects a large amount of data.
ByteDance said it fired four employees in December after they accessed data on two journalists from Buzzfeed News and The Financial Times. The employees were looking for the source of a leaked report about TikTok.
TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said the breach was an “egregious misuse” of the employees’ authority.
Others focus on TikTok’s content and whether it affects the mental health of teenagers. The nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate said in a report in December that TikTok content related to eating disorders content had 13.2 billion views.
Roughly two thirds of U.S. teens use TikTok, according to the Pew Research Center.
CONTRIBUTING Ken Tran, USA TODAY, The Associated Press