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TikTok ban? Creators and fans are big mad

Last Updated : 03 August 2020, 02:52 IST
Last Updated : 03 August 2020, 02:52 IST

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It was a weekend of chaos on TikTok — unleashed Friday night when President Donald Trump said, while aboard Air Force One, that he might ban the video app.

The surprise announcement sent influencers in droves onto live streams to give possibly premature teary and heartfelt goodbyes to their fans, asking them to join them on apps like Instagram, YouTube and Triller. For agencies that manage talent on the platform, it was a long weekend of hand-holding and downloading TikTok archives for posterity. Some users, in a last-hurrah bid for virality, reposted TikToks they said had previously been removed by the service for violating nudity or profanity guidelines.

Others tried to make light of the situation. Addison Easterling, 19, a TikTok star who dropped out of Louisiana State University to pursue a full-time influencer career, posted a video of herself pretending to knock on the college’s doors to let her back in. “Me at LSU tomorrow,” she captioned it.

TikTok is known mostly for dance videos and comedic skits, but that silliness can obscure two facts: TikTok has become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry and the primary platform that music executives and talent agents use to scout the next big act. And, at the same time, especially as the election nears, the app has become an information and organizing hub for Generation Z activists and politically-minded young people.

TikTok has had a fraught relationship with the United States government for some time. Several administration officials, including the president, fear the app is a security risk because its parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese, potentially giving the Chinese government access to American user data. TikTok and ByteDance have vehemently denied any relationship with the Chinese government.

The president’s comments suggesting he would shut down TikTok in the U.S. stalled ByteDance’s negotiations to sell the app to Microsoft as a way to address the security concerns. On Sunday, Microsoft said that it had resumed talks after consulting with the president, giving some hope to users that the app would survive.

Young users say TikTok is a crucial outlet for education about climate change, systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. The talk of a ban only politicized them further, with many TikTokers believing Trump’s threats were a direct response to their campaigns against him.

“TikTok is to Black Lives Matter what Twitter was to the Arab Spring,” said Kareem Rahma, 34, a TikTok creator with nearly 400,000 followers on the app. Rahma’s TikToks from the Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis garnered tens of millions of views. “I saw a lot of youth on the ground TikToking the protests as opposed to live-streaming, tweeting or Instagramming,” he said. “The conversations these kids are having with each other are essential.”

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Published 03 August 2020, 02:52 IST

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