‘Very drastic’: What will be the impact of the Trump administration’s TikTok ban?
The Trump administration on Friday announced that it was banning the Chinese-owned TikTok from U.S. mobile app stores and was forbidding companies from hosting the short-form mobile video platform in the U.S.
Marcus Messner, Ph.D., director of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences and an expert in the influence and adoption of social media, explained what Friday’s announcement decision will mean for the future of TikTok and social media.
What do you see as the impact of this decision to block TikTok in the U.S.?
We have to see this in the context of the larger trade dispute between the United States and China. The Trump Administration is not only targeting TikTok, but also WeChat, which is not only a large social platform in China but also an important channel for the Chinese expatriate community in the United States to connect with relatives and friends back home. The level of disruption with TikTok will be determined whether a possible takeover by an American company, such as Oracle and Walmart, becomes reality. The disruption on WeChat is likely going to be felt immediately. While some usage will continue in the short term, it will get more and more difficult to update and maintain the apps in the long run if no other solution is found.
How do you see this move shaking up the social media landscape? Do other platforms – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – benefit?
In the short term, American social media platforms could definitely benefit from increased user activity. However, there is a reason why TikTok is so popular and it's in part that young people do not want to use the same platforms as their parents and grandparents. Teenagers will be searching for other platforms and there will be other companies that will grow in this space. However, this might also have a chilling effect for international media companies to enter and grow in the American market.
Do you foresee a backlash against this decision?
The action by the Trump Administration is very drastic and the Chinese reaction – while it surely will come – has yet to be seen. However, the concern of the Trump Administration seems to be mostly about competition with China and not the protection of consumers. While the administration states concerns about data security for users as its reason for action, it has not taken similar steps on other social media companies who data mine our daily social interactions. The European Union is actually stating similar concerns about American social media companies like Facebook. But instead of banning them, the E.U. has increased its regulation and created additional consumer protections.