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TikTok US Ban May Do More Harm Than Good: Europe Hesitant To Follow In America’s Footsteps

Last Updated March 13, 2024 4:00 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated March 13, 2024 4:00 PM
Key Takeaways
  • The US House has passed a bill intending to ban TikTok in the US.
  • The app can only survive if its owner, ByteDance, will sell it.
  • But TikTok is fighting back, suing the US government.

As widely anticipated, US House lawmakers have approved a bill that could potentially prohibit TikTok usage within the US. According to the bill’s provisions, the app’s owner ByteDance will be required to divest from TikTok within five months.

Following its passage in Congress, President Joe Biden signed the law that forces ByteDance to find a buyer for TikTok. However, the latter has sued  the US government, claiming that it limits expression of freedom.

TikTok To Use Its Power To Fight US Govt

TikTok has taken legal action  against the US government to halt the implementation of a law mandating the sale of the social media platform due to its Chinese ownership or face a ban. The appeal asserts that the law represents an “unprecedented violation” of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

Signed by President Biden on April 24, the law grants ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, nine months to divest, with a potential three-month extension at the discretion of the president. However, the filing of the appeal effectively halts the countdown, potentially prolonging the timeline before any ban can take effect.

TikTok, a behemoth in video-sharing social networks, has achieved remarkable growth since its inception, firmly establishing itself among the most popular apps. While its commercial significance and appeal to consumer engagement are evident, the challenge for brands lies in how to leverage TikTok’s distinct potential effectively.

It has disrupted the music industry, made niches famous, and has a popular appeal among young people. With over 148 million monthly active users in the US alone, TikTok reaches a vast segment of the population, particularly Gen Z. This translates to significant influence. Users spend a staggering amount  of time on the app, exceeding 4 billion minutes daily. This deep engagement makes it a prime platform for shaping trends and capturing attention.

From launching viral dances to influencing fashion and music trends, TikTok sets the cultural pace for many. It can even impact news cycles and social movements. And as the highest-grossing app of 2023, TikTok holds immense economic sway. Businesses leverage it for marketing, and creators can earn substantial income.

Europe Not Likely To Ban TikTok

European authorities are ramping up investigations and erecting barriers against Chinese technology. Last week, EU investigators raided  Nuctech’s Dutch and Polish offices, probing state subsidies that allegedly allowed the company to undercut European competitors. This scrutiny adds to recent examinations of China’s state backing for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and medical equipment. Meanwhile, Huawei has long been in the crosshairs of security officials.

Despite these actions, the notion of a blanket ban on the video-sharing platform TikTok in Europe seems unlikely to come to fruition.

European Commission President von der Leyen acknowledged the possibility of a US-style TikTok ban in the EU during a recent election debate , where she represented the European People’s Party (EPP). Her stance received cautious support from Luxembourgish Socialist lead candidate Nicolas Schmit, who characterized his perspective on banning TikTok as “quite American.”

However, across Europe, advocates for TikTok remain prevalent over those pushing for a ban.

Dutch Greens EU lawmaker Kim van Sparrentak, who played a role in drafting significant EU tech regulations such as the Artificial Intelligence Act, voiced her opposition  to a TikTok ban, highlighting the inconsistency of targeting one platform while similar concerns persist on others like Meta’s Instagram and Facebook.

Vice President of the European Parliament Dita Charazonvá, a Czech liberal politician, emphasized  that Europe faces different challenges compared to the US and pointed to the existence of the Digital Services Act, which mandates platforms to adopt different behaviors.

Moreover, the EU’s regulatory toolbox does not include a US-style ban. While platforms like TikTok could face temporary suspension under the Digital Services Act for severe content infringements, such measures would only be employed as a last resort and not for national security reasons like those prompting U.S. actions against the app.

House of Representatives Votes for Total Ban

On Wednesday, March 13, 2024, the US House voted to pass a bill that could potentially result in a nationwide ban on TikTok. The vote poses a significant challenge to one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.

The bill seeks to prohibit TikTok from US app stores unless the platform is separated from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain at this time.

US House vote outcome
US House passed a bill that bans TikTok in the US l Source: CNN

Supporters of the bill argue that TikTok poses a national security threat due to concerns that the Chinese government could leverage its intelligence laws to compel ByteDance to disclose the data of US app users

TikTok contends that the legislation constitutes an assault on the First Amendment rights of its users and encourages them to voice their opposition by contacting their representatives in Washington. China’s foreign ministry has expressed strong displeasure  at the impending vote, denouncing it as an “act of bullying.”

What’s Next For ByteDance?

President Joe Biden signed the bill, officially known as the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.” His signing turned the bill into law.

The bill mandates ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell the app within 180 days. Otherwise, it may face removal from the Apple and Google app stores in the US. Additionally, it grants the president authority to label other applications as national security threats. This only if they are controlled by a country adversarial to the US.

The renewed effort by Washington against TikTok took the company by surprise, as reported  by the Wall Street Journal. TikTok executives felt reassured when President Biden joined the app last month as part of his re-election campaign.

If ByteDance were seeking a buyer, Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision Blizzard, might be an option. WSJ said during a dinner during the Allen & Co. conference, Kotick discussed seeking partners to acquire TikTok He’d plan to purchase the app only if the law was approved and ByteDance chose to sell. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, was also present at the event.

Same Fate In Europe?

But the issues in the US may not be the only legal case that TikTok is going to face. In mid-February, in fact, the European Commission initiated  an investigation into the video app for suspected violations of EU regulations concerning child protection and advertising transparency.

The commission is examining whether TikTok’s algorithms may promote addictive behavior or create “rabbit hole effects.” Additionally, it is scrutinizing the privacy settings provided by TikTok for minors and assessing whether the platform fulfills its obligations to maintain a searchable repository of advertisements.

The investigation revolves around potential breaches of the Digital Services Act (DSA) , a recent law governing online platforms. The DSA mandates large platforms to mitigate various risks, including those related to mental well-being and children’s rights, and prohibits the use of minors’ data for targeted advertising.

If the EU finds TikTok to have violated the DSA’s risk mitigation regulations, it could face fines of up to 6% of its global annual revenue.

The Commission is probing whether TikTok is effectively managing the risk of “actual or foreseeable negative effects” stemming from its algorithms. For the EU, algorithms could potentially encourage addictive behavior or lead to “rabbit hole effects.”

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