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Will TikTok Be Banned In The U.S?: Just The Facts

July 9, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Teenagers around the country suddenly became foreign policy experts when word got out that TikTok might be on the chopping block. As one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world with 2 billion users, TikTok’s bite-sized videos are wildly popular with Gen Z. However, TikTok’s ownership by Chinese tech company ByteDance could make it a target of U.S. government officials concerned about security.

How Did Speculation About Banning TikTok In The U.S. Get Started?

Shutterstock_1727920039 KYIV, UKRAINE-JANUARY, 2020: Tiktok on Smart Phone Screen. Young Girl Showing Mobile Phone Screen with Tiktok on it while Looking at the Camera. Focus on Smartphone.

On July 6, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo floated the idea of nixing TikTok in the U.S., and a day later President Trump confirmed that it’s a possibility. “We’re taking this very seriously. We’re certainly looking at it,” said Pompeo in an interview, alluding to security concerns with the app, specifically “private information” ending up with the Chinese government.

How Has TikTok Responded To The Potential U.S. Ban?

TikTok objects to any accusations of security breaches or impropriety. “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” said a TikTok spokesperson.

Clearly, TikTok isn’t pleased about the prospect of losing more than 40 million U.S. users, especially as the brand is expanding its content and advertising offerings. 

Is There Precedent For Banning TikTok?

Yes. According to The Verge, President Trump recently extended for another year his executive order barring “US companies from working with or buying telecommunications equipment from companies deemed a national security risk.” The most high-profile targets of the executive order are Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE, both of which Pompeo called out in his recent remarks about TikTok. 

Additionally, TikTok was recently banned in India, its largest market. India identified security concerns as the reason for the ban, but many point to rising tensions between India and China since a recent skirmish on the Himalayan border as another likely cause. Whether the U.S. will align with India, citing security concerns as a reason for a ban, remains to be seen. 

Will TikTok Really Get Banned In The U.S.?

At this point, the ban appears to be in the consideration phase and there isn’t any indication of how serious the Trump administration is about an actual ban. Relations between China and the U.S., have been tense since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which could increase the likelihood of TikTok being banned in the U.S.

What Should Digital Marketers Do About The Prospect Of TikTok Being Banned?

Nothing yet. As of right now, TikTok being banned in the U.S is just speculation. Digital marketers should continue their media spend and advertising as if nothing has happened, because it hasn’t. However, if considering a long-term contract, digital marketers should look closely at the out clauses, especially as it relates to a ban by the U.S. government.

In the event of a TikTok ban, multichannel digital marketing campaign strategies should offer support to any brands that have to shift priorities and resources away from TikTok. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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