News and Insights

The TikTok Ban Passed, but TikTok Isn’t Banned Yet

April 24, 2024

TL;DR: TikTok’s future ownership is in question, but given its importance in the social media marketing mix for U.S. brands and drawn-out timeline behind legislative impact, we recommend clients maintain their approach to TikTok while continuing to explore alternative social-first video platforms as part of ongoing channel prioritization.

This week Congress passed legislation that would require TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell the platform to a company that is not affiliated with a U.S. adversary (e.g., China, Russia, Iran) within 270 days or risk being banned in the United States. The bill was signed into law by President Biden today. 

Although changes to social platforms occur often, this news is notable for a few reasons:

  • The history of First Amendment legal history would suggest that Congress’ effort to ban TikTok could very likely be overturned. The legislation could have unprecedented implications around the modern interpretation of free speech if upheld. Expect a drawn out process.
  • The “ban” targets the app stores, meaning the government is aiming to regulate its use through placing pressure on Apple and Google vs TikTok (ByteDance) directly. This could be a new strategy for stakeholders across both parties to attempt to exert control over apps.
  • Tiktok’s Project Texas is already underway to shift data architecture to remain on U.S. soil. Look for lots of discussion about national security, privacy, and how personal data is controlled by foreign governments.
  • Consumers, particularly Gen Z, will be highly outspoken about this legislation and this may further activate them around the Presidential election.
  • TikTok is a powerful channel for reaching and engaging with U.S. audiences. Many brands have shifted social resources from X (Twitter) and Meta into TikTok in recent years. 

Is TikTok banned starting today? No.

The app will not disappear from consumer phones overnight. The bill itself acknowledges the app has 270 days to sell with an additional 90 day buffer window at the President’s discretion. Brands should also anticipate litigation that may further delay action concerning the platform’s ownership. It could feasibly be more than a year before changes happen on the platform.

What now?

For now, we recommend brands maintain their approach to TikTok. If the channel factors heavily into your social media strategy and marketing mix and is delivering against your marketing plan’s goals, continue as usual. 

However, this is also a great moment to begin exploring and testing your brand’s presence on other social video-first platforms like Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and Facebook Reels. Although each platform has its own benefits and audience opportunities, in the changing world of social media platforms it’s always wise to assess changes, implications, and opportunities across the available channel mix. 

If and when there is a time where it makes sense to pause content, advertising and engagement on TikTok, it will be time to reassess.

POSTED BY: Erica Tackett

Erica Tackett