The TikTok Ban

Professional adapts to tiktok ban, exploring new strategies on smartphone.

Adapt to a Changing Social Media Landscape With Confidence

Discover how your law firm can confidently navigate and adapt to the shifting social media landscape in the wake of the TikTok ban, unlocking new opportunities for digital engagement and client growth.

We’ve previously released a blog on ‘How Firms Can Take Advantage of the TikTok Market,’ but as TikTok’s potential ban takes center stage, it’s the perfect time to dance to a new social media rhythm and keep your law firm’s online presence en pointe – even through an uncertain future.  

But, before we get to the facts around TikTok’s possible ban in the US, let’s quickly cover the basics: 

The powerful app has been downloaded over 2.0 billion times and is 100% privately owned by ByteDance. TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, works alongside others to guide the company’s major decisions, while ByteDance, the parent company, vigilantly supervises operations and handles matters vital to TikTok’s success. 

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of the app, let’s dive into what you’ve been looking for: 

  • The challenge the app faces today 
  • The government controversy around banning TikTok 
  • The power behind the content creator economy 
  • The top actionable steps law firms should take 

Let’s start with the elephant in the room…

TikTok’s Challenge in the US: Division of Digital Territories and Collection of Data 

What makes TikTok’s collection of data different from the rest of the social media giants like Twitter or Instagram? 

Namely, the US is concerned with the national security threat posed by TikTok. TikTok continues to face scrutiny due to its connections to the Chinese government, with these concerns resurfacing prominently in the initial months of 2023. The keyword to emphasize here is: resurfacing. Trump already attempted and failed to use his emergency economic powers to ban the app back in 2020

Today, US lawmakers and regulators have continued to express concerns over TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, as it may put sensitive data in the hands of the Chinese government.

The current bill aiming to ban TikTok in the US is named the RESTRICT Act (Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology). Basically, this act empowers the commerce secretary and the president to act against information communication technology products or services, like TikTok, which are owned or controlled by “foreign adversaries” and pose a national security risk. (More on this in the following sections.

Ultimately, the question arises:  how does the division of digital territories impact entities such as law firms that invest in promoting their services through TikTok? Paige York, social media manager at Consultwebs, suggests this situation places a limitation on reaching a broader audience.

Paige york's opinion about tiktok ban and its possible impacts.

So, what would a legal social media manager advise in the worst-case scenario?

Paige york advise for worst case scenario, tiktok ban

As we know, with every challenge comes a new opportunity. So, let’s explore this matter a little more deeply. 

Can the US Government Ban An App Like TikTok?

Back in 2020, President Trump sought to prohibit new TikTok downloads through an executive order, but a combination of legal hurdles and the approaching conclusion of his term prevented the ban from taking effect. 

Fun fact: Currently the app has already been banned for three years on U.S. government devices used by the Army, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. However, the ban does not extend to personal devices. 

According to Marian Lemont, copywriter and licensed attorney at Consultwebs, the Tiktok ban on personal devices will face first amendment pushback. 

Marian lemont opinion on pushback tiktok ban

The real kicker of this potential Tiktok ban is that the crux of the issue isn’t necessarily TikTok, but rather the absence of comprehensive privacy legislation in the US. Many of the concerns raised by lawmakers could really be addressed by simply passing a comprehensive federal privacy law.  However, despite facing external pressure due to actions taken by European counterparts, such as the implementation of the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), the US has consistently struggled to pass substantial federal laws that ensure consumer data privacy.

All of this said TikTok has been downloaded not one billion times but over two billion times. With so many content creators and businesses boosting business through this powerful app, how does a possible ban affect the content creator economy? Let’s take a look. 

The Powerful Content Creator Economy Behind TikTok 

TikTok’s unparalleled ability to transform obscure individuals or brands into global sensations, owing to its focus on discovery rather than updating users about existing connections, makes it a unique social platform. 

Content creators contribute millions to the economy, and among all available platforms, the top two preferred channels for monetizing their content are Instagram and TikTok. Take a look at the findings:

Top preferred channels for monetizing content

This app has proven to be more than just ‘the typical Gen-Zer dancing.’ Instead, it’s an economic force, and a business tool used by many including law firms. It’s no surprise that lawmakers are scrambling to find alternatives to a complete TikTok ban. One possible solution lawmakers are trying to push is called ‘Project Texas’, which basically entails that TikTok would continue under ByteDance’s ownership, but implement several measures to block the Chinese government’s access to US user data and grant the US government oversight of the platform.

If this happens, there’s a chance an independent board of directors, nominated by TikTok and reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), will govern the platform. This board will report to CFIUS rather than ByteDance or the global TikTok entity. Oracle will monitor data entering and exiting the platform, ensuring data flows do not present any national security risks.

According to Brooke Oberwetter, TikTok’s head of policy communications, “The way we’ve built this plan, and the level of external oversight, is really meant to make it so that you don’t have to take my word for it or Oracle’s word for it.” 

Actionable Steps Law Firms and Content Creators Can Take With TikTok’s Ban 

This is perhaps the most important part. If you’re worried about your data privacy, you can start by employing the same practices you use on other social media platforms, such as refraining from granting apps permission to access your location or contacts.

In addition to that, Paige York, also emphasized the importance of ‘not putting all your eggs in one basket’ and thus, diversifying your social media channels. As a social media expert, her best guess is that most content creators will pull toward 2 platforms: 

  1. YouTube shorts. On the good side, studies show, YouTube Shorts takes on TikTok with 45% ad-revenue share for creators. According to Paige, ‘For creators who have existing YouTube accounts with long-form educational style content, testimonials, FAQs, etc. I would advise beginning there. When it comes to social media platforms – the more features of their website you utilize, the more frequently they reward you. For example: If you can increase engagement with followers within shorts – you will likely see a lift in other longer-form videos on your channel.’
  2. Instagram Reels. Instagram’s audience and content generally emphasize aesthetics and transition-focused content, frequently featuring typographic elements and lifestyle vibes. So videos like, behind-the-scenes or office-oriented videos usually thrive in this environment. Another beauty behind reels is that crossposting is more straightforward, as Instagram and Facebook accounts are connected. This allows for simultaneous posting without watermark removal.

Takeaway: Embrace the Unknown

The potential TikTok ban has forced law firms and other businesses to adapt to the changing social media landscape and fearlessly venture into new possibilities. By understanding the challenges and controversies surrounding TikTok and the content creator economy, firms can make informed decisions and strategize their digital presence accordingly. By fearlessly venturing into new possibilities, your firm can turn challenges into opportunities!

With every challenge comes a new opportunity and ultimately, you do not have to do it all alone. If you’d like to navigate the uncharted waters of social media, we’ve got your back