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What Would A TikTok Ban Look Like?


By Nikki Slusher

One of the largest apps in the world is facing a potential ban in the U.S. TikTok, the app known for its creators and their short videos, may soon be unavailable for Americans. The U.S. government delivered an ultimatum to the app’s Chinese parent company ByteDance — sell its stake in the company or be banned from the U.S. consumers.

Since the news broke late last week, millions of TikTok users in the country have been left to wonder what that means for them. Some have pondered on the idea of using virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the app if the ban is enacted; yet it may not be that simple. While a VPN may allow users to make it appear that their internet connection is coming from another country, it’s a loophole that isn’t as easy to exploit. Douglas Schmidt, an engineering professor at Vanderbilt University, said, “There will almost always be ways around this. It would just be a lot more difficult for the average person to do it without getting an advanced degree in computer security or something.”

There’s still time before anyone should start panicking about the possibility of a TikTok ban. Per CNBC’s reporting, “The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) is the interagency body evaluating national security concerns around the app to determine how to minimize risk if it continues to operate domestically.” The CFIUS recommended to President Joe Biden that the Chinese company ByteDance — which inherited Musical.ly that turned into TikTok — should force the company to sell its assets of the app or face being banned. TikTok has also offered its own mitigation plan in lieu of a forced sale.

Forcing a sale of the stake would be a complex step, one that failed previously under the Trump Administration. Furthermore, the Chinese government is likely against the idea. But since they’ve already used the argument that TikTok operates independently, it would be a bad look for their cause. So what would a TikTok ban in the U.S. look like?

“Should the U.S. ban TikTok, the mechanics on what happens from there get murky. Oracle is the cloud hosting service for all of TikTok usage in the U.S. Internet service providers like Comcast (NBC Universal’s parent company) and Verizon direct traffic to end users. And the app stores controlled by Apple and Google are the primary places for consumers to download the TikTok app,” according to CNBC’s analysis.

Shannon Reaves, who is a partner in Stroock’s CFIUS compliance group, said that any requirement placed on a third party would not come from CFIUS. “There won’t be action from CFIUS as a result of this review that will be taken against third parties that are not a part of this transaction,” Reaves said. “So your Apples and your Googles and so forth, that that will not happen.” The federal government might ultimately have to refer to passing legislation or presidential executive orders to have the app distributors, ISPs and cloud services to block TikTok.

Will it happen? I don’t think so. If it does I think there will be a lot of backlash from the public. Plus I can’t emotionally afford to lose my favorite app to distract me at work.

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