From stardom to oblivion: How a TikTok ban could cripple US creators

Newsdesk
For millions of American creators, TikTok has become more than just a social media app; it’s a launchpad for careers, a source of income, and a vibrant community.
TikTok ban could hurt US creatives and businesses
Man holds a smartphone with the TikTok app loading screen. © Solen Feyissa

For millions of American creators, TikTok has become more than just a social media app; it’s a launchpad for careers, a source of income, and a vibrant community. But the potential for a US ban on TikTok is back on the cards, as a vote in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday could be the beginning of the end, threatening to disrupt this digital ecosystem and leaving creators scrambling for a future.

The immediate impact of a ban would be the loss of a massive audience. With over 100 million active users in the US as of 2024, TikTok provides creators with unparalleled reach. A sudden shutdown would sever this connection, forcing them to rebuild from scratch on alternative platforms.

Many creators have built successful careers on TikTok, leveraging brand deals, sponsorships, and the platform’s monetization features like the Creator Fund. A ban would disrupt this income stream, potentially leaving creators with significant financial losses.

While diversification across platforms is wise, it takes time and effort. Creators who haven’t built a strong presence elsewhere would face a steep climb to replicate their TikTok success, which has become a cultural phenomenon of its own. Existing platforms like Instagram Reels might experience a surge, but replicating TikTok’s unique algorithm and highly engaged user base wouldn’t be easy.

For many creators, TikTok is more than just an audience; it’s a community. The platform fosters collaboration, fosters trends and challenges, and provides a space for creators to connect and build genuine relationships. A ban would disrupt this sense of belonging and force creators to rebuild these connections elsewhere. The burden of a ban wouldn’t be equally shared, either. Established creators with existing followings on other platforms might weather the storm better. However, for smaller creators still building their audience, the setback could be devastating. This could disproportionately affect creators from marginalized communities who have found a powerful voice on TikTok.

While many platforms offer short-form video options, they may not cater to the specific style of content that thrives on TikTok. Creators known for their comedic skits, dance trends, or educational bite-sized content might need to adapt their approach significantly for other platforms. Some have even built businesses around their TikTok accounts, using it as a platform to market their products and services. On Amazon, you can find no fewer than 8000 books on TikTok covering a wide range of topics, which is just an indicator of its importance in the social fabric of America.

Even if creators manage to successfully transition to alternative platforms, the future remains uncertain. The new landscapes might not offer the same level of monetization or audience engagement. Additionally, new regulations or bans on other platforms could create a climate of constant instability for creators.

The primary concerns surrounding TikTok stem from its ownership by ByteDance, a Chinese tech company. Critics fear that user data collected by TikTok could be accessed by the Chinese government, potentially posing a national security risk. This anxiety is amplified by China’s cybersecurity laws, which grant authorities broad access to user data.

TikTok vehemently denies these allegations, asserting that user data from the US is stored on servers in the US and Singapore. However, the alleged or perceived lack of transparency surrounding its data security practices continues to fuel suspicions and has become the topic of much political debate, especially in the upcoming election season.

The potential TikTok ban highlights the precariousness of building a career on a single platform. While diversification is key, the complete dismantling of a thriving ecosystem would have far-reaching consequences. The onus would fall on creators to adapt and innovate, navigate new platforms with different algorithms, and rebuild their communities. The impact wouldn’t be limited to creators; it would be a loss for millions of users who rely on TikTok for entertainment, information, and a sense of belonging.

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