TikTok’s U.S. users prepare for life without the video app
CAROLINA: Ty Gibson, 20, of Greensboro, North Carolina, brushed off speculation last week on TikTok that his favorite video sharing platform was going to be banned.
By Thursday, users panicked after a glitch on the service erased video views, a measure of video popularity. Suddenly, news reports of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s threats to block Chinese-owned apps like TikTok hit home as he watched other users flood the app with goodbyes.
U.S. lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, and said they were worried it would be required to share data with the Chinese government.
“I thought it was the end,” Gibson said in an interview. “I didn’t even have time to think things through.”
Gibson recorded his own farewell video for his 4.6 million fans, asking them to follow him on YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram.
While TikTok’s fate in the United States is undecided, the news set off a wave of worries among its devoted user base, who are coming up with backup plans on other services. Some, like e-sports star Tyler Blevins, known more widely as Ninja, who has 4 million followers on TikTok, told his 6 million followers on Twitter that he already deleted TikTok from his phone.
Loyalists are sitting tight for now. But they are distraught – sharing videos of themselves crying (and dancing) with hashtags like #TikTokBan which has 212 million views and #SaveTikTok, with 315 million views on the app.
“If TikTok loses consumer trust, then they lose their relevance,” said Alexander Patino, deputy director of the American Influencer Council, a trade association for social media personalities who market products online.
While there are real security questions about TikTok, the Trump administration’s motives are primarily political, which make it not only difficult to predict what the government will decide, but nearly impossible to fight back if it proceeds with a ban, said Justin Sherman, a nonresident fellow at think tank Atlantic Council, who focuses on geopolitics and cybersecurity.
“I don’t think the company could do anything to placate them,” he said.
TikTok has said it has never given user data to the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked, adding that the company has not been asked.