What do influencers think about a potential TikTok ban?
Content creators are frustrated about a possible TikTok ban, amid the momentum of the Biden Administration trying to crack down on the popular app in the United States.
TikTok influencers and three U.S. Democratic Party lawmakers gathered on Wednesday in Washington to push against the proposed ban, before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in U.S. congress.
With 150 million monthly active users in the U.S., TikTok has become a powerful trendsetter and a platform for people to share life and culture, or even make living.
"I will say that TikTok has inspired every creator to be an entrepreneur," TikTok influencer Janette Ok said, adding "it may have Chinese origins, but this is American people, American employees and American businesses."
"If TikTok were to get banned, I think 60 percent of the business would go away," TikTok influencer Gohar Khan said. "Not to mention my personal income, half comes through brand deals most of which happen on TikTok," he added.
Makeup content creator Marjan Tabibzada told Yahoo Finance Friday that a full U.S. ban wouldn't impact her income drastically, "20 percent to 30 percent if anything, but at the end of the day, the value is in the content creator."
Tabibzada said the impact won't be only monetary, but personal as well. "My biggest concern about a potential TikTok ban as a creator is just seeing all the time and effort that I've put into building a community on TikTok go away."
"I think it would be a real shame if it was banned in the United States," a youth shared her opinions about the possible TikTok ban with CGTN.
"Information sharing in TikTok as a platform for that is exceptionally useful. I have learned more on TikTok about coronavirus than I have through mainstream media 'cause it is more easily accessible and it doesn't have to pass through a bunch of bureaucratic gates," she said.
Chew was grilled by skeptical U.S. lawmakers in a nearly six-hour hearing on Thursday.
"In many cases, he couldn't even get a word in as impassioned representatives demanded quick yes or no answers, or cut him off from speaking," The Information wrote in a report after the hearing.
There is no other way to describe this hearing as a show trial "that reveals the dark and ugly underside of the U.S. political establishment," Andy Mok, senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, told CGTN via a skype interview.
This congressional hearing is meant to gather information for policy making, Mok said.
"It was clear that it was xenophobic. We could even say racist in that. These were really just attacks against TikTok for being Chinese," he continued.
Mok said none or very few lawmakers seemed interested in solving this problem which they see as a potential national security risk, instead making baseless accusations and attacks on the company.
"[The hearing is] merely for being successful."
Evidence remains unclear
There is no public evidence to prove security concerns toward TikTok to date, and it is not any more invasive or illegal than what other U.S. tech companies do, CNN reported, citing outcomes of multiple privacy and security researchers.
In 2020, Geoffrey Fowler, a technology columnist for the Washington Post, concluded that the TikTok app does not appear to collect any more data than typical mainstream social networks.
"There's scant evidence that TikTok is sharing our data with China, and we should be wary of xenophobia dressed up as privacy concerns," he wrote.
Pellaeon Lin, a researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, performed another technical analysis and reached similar conclusions in the following year.
"We did not find any overt vulnerabilities regarding their communication protocols, nor did we find any overt security problems within the app," Lin said. "Regarding privacy, we also did not see the TikTok app exhibiting any behaviors similar to malware."
Asked how he would advise policymakers to look at TikTok instead, Lin told CNN "What I would call for is more evidence-based policy."