US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States “is considering” banning Chinese social media apps, including Chinese company TikTok, comparing it to other Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE which have been considered a threat to national security by the current administration. “When it comes to Chinese applications on people’s cell phones, I can assure you that the United States will also succeed,” said Pompeo.
The fear is that the app may be used to monitor or influence Americans, or that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, may be required to provide the Chinese government with TikTok data on its US-based users – of which there are at least 165 million. India, calling TikTok a “threat to sovereignty and integrity,” decided to ban the application late last week, saying it had similar concerns.
While security experts disagree on how the U.S. should be concerned about TikTok, this move would undoubtedly hamper what has become one of the fastest growing social media companies of the planet, with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, half of whom are minors. Meanwhile, the mere suggestion of a ban is a boon for TikTok’s biggest rival, Facebook – and especially at a time when the American company is facing increasing scrutiny of its decision not to give following several controversial messages from Donald Trump.
The threat is already prompting some to speculate that Pompeo’s warning was politically motivated. In a new interview with Axios, for example, Los Angeles-based talent director John Shahidi observes that TikTok users said they were partially responsible for a Trump rally in Oklahoma two weeks ago which failed to attract a huge crowd.
Shahidi – whose agency currently oversees nine “channels” on TikTok that collectively benefit from more than 100 million followers – has no doubt that the two are linked. “I’m often on TikTok,” says Shahidi, and “there are no Trump supporters, no official Trump account; no one on his team is on TikTok. “Is it” just a coincidence that we are heading towards [the election], and the only app that doesn’t support it – with everything going on in the world – let’s talk about removing TikTok? ” he adds.
A moving landscape
Either way, TikTok influencers are more actively promoting their other social media channels, including Facebook Instagram, to their subscribers as a kind of emergency plan. Pierson Wodzynski, a rising social media star, is soon joining them, a 21-year-old who was doing high school track and taking a break from college communication studies when a friend in January invited her to participate in a program on AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel with more than 8 million subscribers.
The show’s set-up focused on making an appointment with social media star Brent Rivera, who has 13 million YouTube subscribers, 19.8 million Instagram followers and over 30 million TikTok fans. But eventually, Wodzynski found himself with the Los Angeles-based talent agency Rivera co-founded two years ago called Amp Studios and, in recent months, helped by guest appearances from Rivera , she built a substantial fan base herself, with 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, 455,000 Instagram followers and 4.1 million fans on TikTok.
Wodzynski says her followers seem to like the comedy bits she’s developing, such a recent series on “things that go wrong when you’re late” and another on the “Appdashians”, in which every character she plays is a different social media company. (Notably, Facebook is the old grandmother character.) Said Wodzynski, who turns out to be both confident and affable: “I’m so incredibly myself [on social media], it’s crazy.”
No wonder she is concerned about the future of TikTok in the United States. In part, she simply appreciates it. (“It’s just a great escape app, and it’s so different, with a huge music library and editing software that other apps don’t have.”) But it’s also the source of most of its revenue, she said, explaining that it helps promote the brands that Amp Studios works with, including Chipotle. (“Often it’s me dancing to a popular song and holding the product, or developing creative advertising to make it enjoyable.”)
Wodzynski says she is “ready for anything” and that if the United States bans the platform, she hopes it will be for legitimate reasons. In addition, she says, “There are many other routes to take your content.”
It’s a feeling that echoes Max Levine, who co-founded Amp with Rivera, and who advises all of the firm’s talents to diversify on social platforms. “Diversification is a good mantra for life,” says Levine, who learned this lesson early when Vine – the once popular video app that Twitter acquired and then closed – “fizzled and died” .
Land and enlarge
Levine points to early Vine stars like Logan Paul and Rivera himself who “were smart and focused on creating platforms on Instagram and YouTube” and who not only came out unscathed when Vine was closed, but whose popularity subsequently exploded. He says Amp’s customers have always “promoted other social media on TikTok” and that he would prefer that they not start getting too aggressive on this front. “I think if everyone else TikTok mentions [a call to action], it could be a lot. “
However, this is starting to happen, and with the threat of a ban in the air, Wodzynski – who says she has seen her number of views decrease with the recent ban on TikTok in India – is not at the shelter from the impulse. “In fact, later today I will post something on Tiktok about this whole ban and I will remind people that if they want to follow my Instagram and Youtube that ‘this is what I post there’ , she says.
“I do it fairly regularly, but I will intensify it more in the coming days and weeks.”
In the meantime, Facebook will be ready. Yesterday in India, Instagram rolled out a video sharing feature called Reels to fill the void left by TikTok, which looks very much like a clone. The in-app tool prompts users to record 15-second videos to music and audio and then upload them to their stories.
As CNN notes, Facebook started testing functionality in Brazil last November. The functionality is now also available in France and Germany.
Indeed, although Tiktok is not India’s only target – it has also banned indefinitely 58 other apps and services provided by Chinese companies, including Tencent’s WeChat – the country’s government maintains good relations with Facebook, which recently took a 10% stake in local telecommunications. Jio giant platforms. In fact, in February, before a trip to India, Donald Trump talked about Facebook and the ranking he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have on the platform.
He said Modi is “number two” on Facebook in terms of followers, and he is number one as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told him directly.
As reported in the Economic Times, Trump said at the time, “I’m going to India next week, and we’re talking – you know, they have 1.5 billion people. And Prime Minister Modi is number two on Facebook, number two. Think about it. Do you know who is number one? Asset. You believe that? Number one. I just discovered.”