TikTok’s Ticking Clock- To Ban or Not To Ban?

// By Nneamaka Nwadei

‘Made in China’ tags used to follow virtually every imported product into the country, but the scepticism that follows the quality and durability of such products has been lost on Tiktok. Easily the fastest-growing app of 2020 with a record of 800 million active users worldwide, Tiktok ranks 9th most-used social network site, standing tall ahead of its ancestors LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.

Founded by Zhang Yiming, and initially launched under parent company ByteDance as Douyin in September 2016 in China, Tiktok is a media app used for creating and sharing short videos embellished with music clips, filters and special effects. For creatives on social media, especially the Generation Z,, an earlier video creating platform was the go-to for such videos, until it was bought in 2017 by Tiktok, hence the merging of formats and global acceptance of the app by a younger audience, who are rapidly taking up the content consumption ratio online.

Zhang Yiming, CEO ByteDance

A statistics report released shows the usage of the platform and the trends that are common with users of the app. It is worthy to note that although one of the newest apps, Tiktok is available in 155 countries and 75 languages and users spend 52 minutes per day on the app; the third-highest amount of time spent on any social networking app, closely following Facebook with 58.5 minutes, and Instagram, with 53 minutes.

Yet, with all these statistics showing high usage and frequent downloads- exceeding 2 billion- there is also a growing concern for cybersecurity. To reduce the risks and allay fears of compromised data, Tiktok adopted measures including storing U.S. user data in the U.S. and backing it up on Singaporean servers, blocking access to its data from its mother company ByteDance, hiring an American CEO and operations team, setting up a global headquarters outside of China. The company also hired former Disney Executive Kevin Mayers as Chief Executive Officer.

The U.S. government announced that it was considering banning Tiktok to safeguard the privacy of U.S. citizens from the Chinese government. On August 6, business transactions between U.S. citizens and ByteDance were outlawed, out of concern for national security. On August 14, TikTok was given an executive order to sell off all of its U.S. assets to an American-based company within 90 days, as well as to destroy all its copies of TikTok data attached to U.S. users- or face a ban. Companies like Microsoft, Walmart, and Oracle expressed interest in bidding for the company.

This is not the first time Tiktok is being banned in a country, On June 29, 2020, India banned Tiktok and informed the 200 million users of the process of “complying with the government of India’s directive” in a bid to ensure the privacy and security of all users. Reports have it that the ban was “triggered by military conflict and followed nationalistic public appeals for a boycott of Chinese products”. It was previously banned for showcasing inappropriate content, but the company successfully appealed the decision.

Following the pressure for the company to sell off its assets and corporate restructuring may be coming for the company, the CEO Mayers concluded that it was best for him to depart, and resigned as Chief Executive.

Effects of the ban

According to the Harvard Business Review Article,  The TikTok Ban Should Worry Every Company,

The proposed ban reinforces a growing belief that America is no longer the leading guarantor of global business, but rather a potential threat to it — a notion that is profoundly reshaping the world economy and threatening American businesses.

For consumers, the major concern over the ban would not be the power tussle, but the loss of an already curated fan-base. Thousands of social media influencers, many of whom have built entire successful businesses on the app might have difficulty in reaching their customers. Online businesses with ads and heavy engagement would also experience a loss in the number of leads they get each month due to the ban.

A reduction in the amount of time spent on the app which could come with withdrawal symptoms of addiction, such as restlessness, depression, anxiety to mention a few. In all these still, other apps are rising to fill any impending vacuum, like the introduction of Reels by Instagram, which in the opinion of many is a Tiktok copycat.

In a country like Nigeria, one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to cyber-attacks where the population is teeming with Generation Y and Z, consumption is at an all-time high; data privacy and security is not guaranteed as people continue to share, unaware of the evils lurking behind computer screens, even with two-factor authentications on devices and apps.

It appears sometimes, that though we are called the Big brother of Africa, there is not much being done in terms of protection for the citizens and their information; like the Digital Rights Bill which would protect the fundamental rights of Nigerians on the Internet and ensure their safety and well being.

Whether Tiktok will be banned, and how it will affect Nigerians remains to be seen as we are all onlookers in this game of power, but the clock is ticking, and whatever happens next, we will locomote. We always know how to find balance.



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