Navigating A Potential TikTok Ban in the United States

TikTok, the controversial Chinese-owned video clip app, has proven to be a very successful social media platform for adult content creators of varying popularity. Even though TikTok doesn’t necessarily allow sexually explicit content as a part of their acceptable use policy, adult industry figures have managed to cultivate high-value audiences and followings that feature hundreds of thousands of accounts – millions in some cases. TikTok is a social media platform with a large and diverse user base, and its algorithm can help content creators reach a wider audience. For some adult creators, TikTok offers a way to show their personality and interact with fans in a way that’s not purely sexual.

The Controversy Surrounding TikTok

However, this could be problematic given recent political shifts in the United States. Starting with former U.S. President Donald Trump, who started railing against TikTok and its alleged ties to the People’s Republic of China and its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The controversy has continued with current president, Democrat Joe Biden. A rash of concerns has centered on TikTok’s corporate owner, ByteDance. ByteDance has garnered international notoriety over allegations of surveillance and potential privacy violations from countries all over the world, Western democracies especially. 

There is also concern that being a company owned in Mainland China, ByteDance is sharing private user data – including the tens of millions of users living in the United States market. The Chinese government maintains that this is untrue, but it’s tough to dispute. Recent developments include a March 2023 announcement from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, who opened an investigation into whether ByteDance allegedly conducted surveillance of journalists. Such an accusation was met by the general counsel of TikTok, saying that ByteDance employees have reportedly accessed the user data of journalists employed by BuzzFeed News and the Financial Times. ByteDance officials also responded that it launched an internal investigation.

Not Clear

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley introduced a proposal to ban TikTok in the United States with another conservative member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ken Buck of rural Colorado. In a split among Senate GOP members, a rebuke from Sen. Rand Paul as he blocked debate on the proposal citing potential First Amendment violations. Paul, a conservative-leaning libertarian known for his heterodoxy in favor of free speech and his positions on restorative criminal justice reform, said that Buck and Hawley’s proposal had far more negative implications than potential benefits due to the massive amount of backlash banning a major social media platform in the U.S. would likely have. Interestingly, ideologically Senators Paul, Hawley, and Rep. Buck are also quite similar and have sided together on various right-wing efforts, including controversial Trump-era public spending cuts.

Is A Ban Justifiable? 

However, interestingly enough, Paul stood by his beliefs in the First Amendment. By doing so, this particular attempt to ban TikTok is now blocked, leaving power for the White House and some others in Congress to take up the fight to ban the social media app. Central to the crisis facing the company are the lobbying efforts and the millions of dollars spent by TikTok. Notably, TikTok chief executive officer Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean, testified to Congress that the U.S. operations for the social media platform are working to distance itself from ByteDance, including from Beijing.

Despite the politics, restricting or blocking TikTok places its millions of users, including the sex workers who use the platform for marketing purposes, in the middle of an international pissing contest between Washington, D.C., and Beijing. From the perspective of the adult entertainment industry, TikTok’s ban could lead to a significant shift of audiences and potential revenue losses. 

Alyssa Collins, editor at B2B adult industry news website YNOT Cam, commented that a ban on TikTok reflects how “Americans pride themselves on freedom of speech and “censorship” is a dirty word…Therefore, I think we can be cautiously optimistic that TikTok is going to remain a social media outlet for content creators because it’s too risky to incur the wrath of pissed off voters.”

The First Amendment and TikTok’s Importance

This is a strong sentiment. It is reflected by a coalition letter signed jointly by several civil society groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Free Press Action, and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, among other groups. Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, recently wrote a column in the New York Times criticizing the efforts to ban the social networking app. Jaffer said, “it’s conceivable that the U.S. government will eventually be able to establish the necessity of a ban on TikTok, even if it hasn’t done so yet. But the First Amendment would require the government to carry a heavy burden of justification.” Interestingly, Sen. Paul said that he views a ban on TikTok as an extremely slippery slope and that “we don’t ban things that are unpopular in the United States.”

We mention this information at length because it is important for adult business owners to know the underlying background to something that would be unprecedented in the history of the United States. According to Insider Intelligence, that would be the prohibition of a social media platform that serves 150 million users from the U.S. and 834.3 million monthly users worldwide in 2023. This ascent to global success has been incredibly quick, adding the worldwide user base might reach a whopping 1 billion users making it one of the top social media platforms for the entire world. So, if there were a ban on TikTok, the impacts wouldn’t just be felt by adult content creators who use the application for simply posting non-sexual but extremely tantalizing posts to market their content.

Do you think that TikTok will be banned in the United States? If so, think about what you would do.

Read More for Adult Industry-Related Legal & Political Tips:

Understanding Adult Industry Censorship On Social Media Platforms Like Instagram

Sexuality Censorship, Law & Adult Entertainment

What Is Section 230 And Why Should I Care? 

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