The battle over TikTok

March 17, 2024 | by


The battle over TikTok has become a contentious issue, with governments and technology companies alike vying for control and influence over the popular social media platform. TikTok, known for its short-form videos and viral challenges, has surged in popularity among younger generations worldwide. However, concerns have been raised regarding data privacy and national security, prompting governments to consider bans or restrictions on the app. Meanwhile, technology giants are seeking to acquire or partner with TikTok to tap into its massive user base. As the battle intensifies, the future of TikTok hangs in the balance, with significant implications for the social media landscape and global technology industry.

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Overview of TikTok

Introduction to TikTok

TikTok is a popular social media platform that allows users to create and share short videos. It was launched in September 2016 by a Chinese company called ByteDance. TikTok quickly gained popularity, especially among younger users, for its easy-to-use interface and a wide range of video editing tools.

Background and history of TikTok

TikTok’s success can be attributed to its predecessor,, an app that focused exclusively on lip-syncing videos. In 2017, ByteDance acquired and merged it with its own video-sharing app, TikTok, creating a unified platform for short-form videos. This merger allowed TikTok to expand its user base and introduce new features, such as the ability to add effects, filters, and stickers to videos.

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Popularity and growth of TikTok

TikTok’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, with millions of users around the world. It has become a cultural phenomenon and has had a significant impact on popular culture, music, and dance trends. The platform has attracted celebrities, influencers, and content creators who have amassed large followings and have become household names. As of 2020, TikTok has been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide.

National Security Concerns

TikTok’s Chinese ownership

One of the main concerns surrounding TikTok is its Chinese ownership. As a Chinese company, TikTok falls under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government, raising concerns about data privacy and censorship. These concerns have been heightened due to China’s strict internet regulations and its history of surveillance.

Data privacy concerns

Another major concern is TikTok’s handling of user data. There have been allegations that TikTok collects and stores user data, including personal information and browsing history, and shares it with the Chinese government. These allegations have raised concerns about the potential misuse of user data and the violation of individual privacy rights.

Accusations of censorship

TikTok has faced accusations of censorship, particularly when it comes to political content. Critics argue that TikTok’s Chinese ownership and alignment with the Chinese government’s agenda may result in the suppression of content that is critical of the Chinese government or promotes ideas that go against its policies. This has raised concerns about freedom of speech and expression on the platform.

US government’s scrutiny of TikTok

The US government has intensified its scrutiny of TikTok due to the national security concerns associated with the app. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has initiated a review of TikTok’s acquisition of, citing concerns about the Chinese government’s access to US user data. Additionally, the US government has taken steps to ban TikTok and has issued executive orders aimed at forcing TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to divest its US operations.

US Government Actions

Executive orders by President Trump

In August 2020, former President Donald Trump issued executive orders that aimed to ban TikTok from operating in the United States. The executive orders cited national security concerns and gave TikTok a deadline to sell its US operations to an American company or be banned from the country.


Attempts to ban TikTok

The Trump administration made several attempts to ban TikTok, but these efforts faced legal challenges and were temporarily blocked by US courts. The bans were primarily based on concerns about data privacy and national security.

Investigations by CFIUS

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) launched an investigation into TikTok’s acquisition of in 2019. The investigation focused on national security concerns and the Chinese government’s potential access to US user data. This investigation eventually led to the forced divestiture of TikTok’s US operations.

Potential sale of TikTok’s US operations

In response to the US government’s demands, TikTok explored options to sell its US operations to an American company. Several tech companies, including Microsoft and Oracle, expressed interest in acquiring TikTok’s US operations. However, negotiations faced various challenges and ultimately resulted in a partnership between Oracle, Walmart, and TikTok to create a new entity called TikTok Global.

Legal Challenges

Lawsuits against the US government

TikTok and its users filed several lawsuits against the US government, challenging the ban and alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. The lawsuits argued that the executive orders targeting TikTok were unconstitutional and lacked sufficient evidence to justify a ban. US courts temporarily blocked the bans, allowing TikTok to continue its operations in the country.

Arguments for and against the ban

Supporters of the TikTok ban argue that the app poses significant national security risks due to its Chinese ownership and its potential for data collection on US users. They contend that banning TikTok is necessary to protect US user data and prevent the Chinese government from accessing sensitive information. Critics of the ban argue that it is an overreach of government authority and that it violates free speech rights. They believe that the ban is politically motivated and lacks substantial evidence of wrongdoing by TikTok.

Court rulings on the TikTok ban

US courts have issued temporary injunctions and preliminary injunctions against the TikTok ban. These rulings concluded that the ban was unlikely to succeed on its merits and that there were First Amendment concerns. As a result, TikTok was able to continue operating in the United States while legal challenges and negotiations continued.

International Responses

Actions by other countries

Several countries have taken actions concerning TikTok due to similar national security concerns. India was the first country to ban TikTok, along with several other Chinese apps, in June 2020. Australia, Japan, and some European countries have also expressed concerns about TikTok’s data privacy and potential national security risks.

Concerns from global governments

Governments around the world have raised concerns about TikTok’s data privacy practices and potential influence on national security. They have called for stricter regulations and increased transparency from TikTok to address these concerns. The international response to TikTok’s operations has raised questions about the role of social media platforms and their impact on national security.

India’s ban on TikTok

India’s ban on TikTok in June 2020 had a significant impact on the platform’s user base and popularity. India was one of TikTok’s largest markets, with over 600 million downloads. The ban sparked a debate about data privacy and national security in other countries and led to increased scrutiny of TikTok’s operations globally.

Impact on TikTok Users

Reactions from TikTok creators

The potential ban and the uncertainty surrounding TikTok’s future in the United States had a significant impact on TikTok creators. Many creators rely on TikTok as a platform to showcase their talent and build a following. The ban threatened their ability to continue creating and sharing content on the platform, leading to anxiety and frustration among the creator community.

Effect on user engagement

The ban and the ongoing legal challenges had an adverse effect on user engagement on TikTok. Many users expressed concerns about privacy and security and either deleted their accounts or reduced their activity on the platform. The uncertainty surrounding TikTok’s future also led to a decline in new user registrations and impacted TikTok’s ability to attract and retain users.

Migration to other social media platforms

The potential ban on TikTok prompted many users to explore alternative social media platforms. TikTok’s rivals, such as Instagram Reels and Snapchat’s Spotlight, saw a surge in user activity as TikTok users sought alternatives. This migration highlighted the competitive nature of the social media landscape and the importance of providing a secure and trustworthy platform for users.

Potential Buyers and Partnerships

Interest from US tech companies

Several US tech companies expressed interest in acquiring TikTok’s US operations to address national security concerns. Microsoft was one of the frontrunners in the acquisition talks and had planned to acquire TikTok’s operations in certain markets. However, the negotiations eventually fell through, and Microsoft did not proceed with the acquisition.

Oracle’s involvement in the TikTok deal

Oracle, a US tech company specializing in database management systems, entered into a partnership with TikTok to create a new entity called TikTok Global. This partnership aimed to address national security concerns by ensuring that TikTok’s US user data is stored and processed in the United States. The partnership was subject to approval by the US government.

Partnerships with Walmart and Microsoft

As part of the TikTok Global partnership, Walmart joined forces with Oracle to acquire a stake in TikTok. This partnership aimed to leverage Walmart’s e-commerce expertise and reach to enhance TikTok’s online shopping capabilities. Microsoft, although no longer pursuing the acquisition, expressed continued interest in TikTok and explored potential partnerships in the future.

Geopolitical Implications

TikTok as a proxy in US-China tensions

The tensions between the United States and China have extended into the tech industry, with TikTok becoming a focal point of the dispute. TikTok’s Chinese ownership and its popularity among US users have made it a target for the US government’s concerns about national security. The scrutiny surrounding TikTok has further strained the already complex relationship between the two countries.

Tech competition between the US and China

The battle over TikTok has highlighted the growing competition between the United States and China in the technology sector. Both countries recognize the strategic and economic importance of dominating the tech industry, and their actions regarding TikTok reflect this competition. The TikTok controversy has become part of a wider conflict over technological supremacy and control over data.

Impact on global internet governance

The TikTok saga has raised questions about global internet governance and the role of governments in regulating social media platforms. The actions of the US government regarding TikTok set a precedent for how countries can address national security concerns arising from foreign-owned tech companies. This has prompted discussions about the need for international cooperation and standardized regulations to govern the operations of global tech platforms.

The Future of TikTok

Possible outcomes for TikTok

The future of TikTok remains uncertain due to the ongoing legal challenges and negotiations. One possible outcome is that TikTok Global, the joint venture between Oracle, Walmart, and TikTok, successfully addresses the US government’s concerns and is allowed to continue operating in the United States. Another possible outcome is that TikTok’s US operations are sold to a different American company that meets the US government’s requirements.

Changes in TikTok’s ownership structure

Regardless of the outcome, TikTok’s ownership structure is likely to change. The pressure from the US government and the scrutiny surrounding TikTok’s operations have highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability. TikTok may need to undergo significant changes to address these concerns and regain trust from users and governments around the world.

Long-term implications for social media

The TikTok controversy has far-reaching implications for the future of social media platforms. It has exposed the vulnerabilities of foreign-owned apps and the potential risks associated with data privacy and national security. This controversy has also raised awareness about the need for stronger regulations and oversight of social media platforms to protect user data and ensure the integrity of democratic processes.


TikTok’s journey from a popular social media app to a subject of national security concerns has been a testament to the complex and evolving nature of the digital landscape. The battle over TikTok has highlighted the delicate balance between user engagement, data privacy, and national security. The outcome of this battle will shape the future of social media platforms and influence the broader debate on global internet governance. As governments continue to grapple with these challenges, it is clear that the impact of TikTok’s rise and fall will be felt for years to come.

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