Credit: Claire Lorimor | Mustang News

Recently, the social media platform TikTok has been under fire by the federal government for its various privacy concerns. Lawmakers in the US are discussing a potential ban on the platform. Many students at Cal Poly use the app to promote themselves or their small businesses and they’re concerned about how the ban would affect them.  

TikTok has been in the app space since 2016 when it replaced another popular video-sharing app Musical.ly. Little was known about TikTok in the United States, except that it was owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Because of this, people were weary of the app’s intentions; some people were concerned that it was only being used by China to surveil the United States, according to Time Magazine

The app came close to being banned by an executive order from President Donald Trump in 2020. TikTok avoided the ban when Trump’s advisers persuaded him to hold off the ban for 45 days until TikTok was sold to an American company, according to an article from NPR

TikTok was never sold to an American company and in 2023 there continues to be security concerns about the platform that comes from legislators and users of the app. The CEO of Tiktok, Shou Zi Chew, faced questioning by the Justice Department for security concerns; the platform is specifically being accused of spying on journalists, according to the New York Times. 

Art and design junior Jordan Marozik has been creating content for TikTok since 2020. She said she relies on the app as a source of income. She’s concerned about the ban not because of the money, but because after reading an official copy of the bill that may be passed, which is referred to as the Restrict Act, she was concerned that Congress is using TikTok security concerns as an excuse to “breach [our] internet security.”

She said the Restrict Act is vague and could be “easily misinterpreted” by people who want to take advantage of people’s personal data. 

Student TikTokers shared concerns about the act restricting the platform — which is used for creativity, information, income and more.

“TikTok has become a major source of information and news for a lot of young people, and the [platform] being banned or restricted in the U.S. would silence a lot of people and make information less accessible.”

Statistics freshman Michelle Hu has been creating content for TikTok since the summer of 2020. She finds that TikTok is a more accessible platform than Instagram, and that its algorithm makes it easier to “find an audience and gain a following,” she said.  

Marozik said she encourages students to “get involved by contacting their representatives to protect their internet security” and by participating in local, statewide and national elections if they are eligible. 

Still, students like communication freshman Sunny Wakeman are curious as to whether the ban will even go through.

“TikTok was almost banned once before,” Wakeman said. “But [they] found a loophole and were able to get out of it.”