TikTok has more than 170 million American users. And for many of them, the short video-sharing platform is their source of bread and butter. There’s a good chance TikTok could be banned in the U.S. as soon as January 2025. President Joe Biden signed the TikTok ban bill into law on Wednesday.

After years of attempts to ban the Chinese-owned app, including efforts by former President Donald Trump, the TikTok ban bill has finally won congressional approval. The measure was tied to $95.3 billion emergency aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with the Senate passing the package Tuesday evening by a 79-18 vote.

Protecting Americans’ Data From Foreign Adversaries Act of 2024” mandates that ByteDance sell its interest in TikTok or face a nationwide ban of the app. The addition of this Act was designed to win Republican support for the foreign aid package, which had been stalled in Congress for months.

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The Ban Conditions

US President Joe Biden signed a legislation to ban or force the sale of the Chinese app TikTok. While passing the bill, the US Congress members said the app presents a national security threat as long as it is controlled by or connected to the Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

The new law compels ByteDance to sell the company within nine months to any US company, with a possible three-month extension if a sale is in progress or faces a national ban.

When Will The Ban Take Place?

The original proposal mandated ByteDance to divest from its US subsidiary within six months, but negotiations extended this period to nine months. If a sale is already underway, the company will have an additional three months to complete it. However, with likely court challenges, the timeline for the ban could stretch even longer, potentially years.

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On the other hand, TikTok has strongly denied the allegations saying it has never shared US user data with Beijing and it will never do so. “We will take the fight against the new law to the courts“, said CEO Shou Zi Chew

Countries need to assess their dependency on China and find a way to reduce it as the apps can pose a national security risk. TikTok app is also banned in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Afghanistan and restricted in many countries in Europe.

When banned in India, TikTok decided not to go to court, but the US is a bigger revenue market for them. “The First Amendment in America is fairly strong, so it’s not going to be as easy for the US to do this as it was for India,” said Nikhil Pahwa, a digital policy expert and founder of tech website MediaNama.

The Eventual Ban Process

The video-sharing app won’t just vanish from existing users’ phones immediately, but it will be removed from Apple and Google’s app stores. This means users won’t be able to download updates, security patches, and bug fixes; which over time, will render the app unusable.

Many tech geeks, known for bypassing restrictions on social media, may attempt to circumvent the ban using methods like VPNs, alternative app stores, or foreign SIM cards. However, this is highly unlikely, and many users may migrate to other platforms like Instagram Reels or YouTube, where similar content is available.

Dean Ball from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University highlights, “The TikTok bill relies heavily on the control that Apple and Google maintain over their smartphone platforms because the bill’s primary mechanism is to direct Apple and Google to stop allowing the TikTok app on their respective app stores.”

How Will This Affect American Creators?

Andrew Graham, head of digital corporate advisory and partnerships at CAA, emphasizes that creators won’t lose immediate access to TikTok. However, the looming threat of a U.S. ban “will immediately force dramatic talent platform diversification.”

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Graham says that creators are increasingly focusing on alternate platforms like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts to “solve the impact of short-form content monetizing at rates much lower than long-form. TikTok’s most lasting impact may be instigating an erosion of longform monetization on platforms like YouTube.”

The Data Security Threat

Lawmakers and officials from both parties have voiced concerns about Chinese authorities potentially accessing data on TikTok’s American users. It is alleged that the Chinese national security laws compel organizations like ByteDance to assist in intelligence gathering, and it’s raising concern for the US government. While Bytedance denies being a tool of the Chinese government and claims not to share US user data, the ‘date-thefting’ doubt is always looming on the horizon.

Will this ban actually take place or will ByteDance’s TikTok find a way to retain one of it’s largest user base: the United States? Only time will tell. Let’s wait and watch.