Content creators react to possible US ban on TikTok

The U.S. government said it's considering banning the app for security concerns.

July 17, 2020, 6:34 PM

News this week that the U.S. is considering banning TikTok, a social media app that's wildly popular among young people, over security concerns sent shockwaves through the community of users on the platform.

The video app, where users post 15-second clips along to music, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. India has already banned the app, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News in an interview earlier this week that the U.S. was "certainly looking" at doing the same.

Morgan Eckroth started posting on TikTok in May 2019 under the handle @morgandrinkscoffee. She now has nearly 4 million followers, and mostly posts videos about her experiences working at a coffee shop outside of Portland, Oregon.

"I've really really enjoyed it," she said. "It's my first time, kind of, building a platform for myself that's turned into something that's led to me being like, kind of, a micro-public figure."

When Eckroth first heard the news of a potential ban on TikTok, she said her initial reaction was of "fear and frustration."

Nigel Braun, another TikTok creator, said all he could do was laugh at the news.

"I laughed because I was like, 'Of course TikTok's going to shut down,'" he said. "Now that we actually got established on it -- that's just when it all gets shut down."

PHOTO: TikTok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken Nov. 27, 2019.
TikTok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken Nov. 27, 2019.
Dado Ruvic/Reuters, File

Braun, alongside his brother and a mutual friend, runs a TikTok account that focuses on science. A recent video shows Braun demonstrating the reactive properties of white phosphorus by lighting a piece of the toxic substance on fire.

Braun and his team, who go by @nilered on TikTok, began making videos on YouTube in 2014. They only started putting content on TikTok at the beginning of this year, but have since accumulated nearly 3 million followers. Though they operate out of Canada, Braun says most of his viewers are American.

A few months ago, TikTok even offered to partner with them as part of a science initiative on the platform.

As for the news of a potential ban on TikTok in the U.S., Braun said he'd be sad to see the app go.

"It's unfortunate because I was happy with how well we were doing," he said.

Some creators were skeptical from the outset.

"My first thought was that it's not going to happen," said Sally Darr Griffin, who mainly posts comedy videos to her half a million followers on the app.

But at the same time, she did encourage her followers on TikTok to follow her on other platforms.

"It's important to diversify your platforms," said Griffin. "Send people to your YouTube or your Twitter, or your Instagram. Just so you can kind of cover all your bases."

PHOTO: This Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, shows the icon for TikTok in New York.
This Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, shows the icon for TikTok in New York.
AP Photo, File

Eckroth agreed, saying, "I think right now with the realization that TikTok is a little bit in jeopardy, I think it's a big wake-up call for creators who haven't necessarily diversified their platform usage to be like, 'Hey, I need to get these people who are interested in me -- and interested in following my life -- onto these other platforms.'"

Some of those platforms are working on services of their own that mirror TikTok's short-form video format. Instagram announced this week it would bring an app called Reels to India, after testing it in Brazil, France and Germany. YouTube is reportedly working on a competitor called Shorts.

"It's not like there's nowhere else to pivot to," said Braun. "Whatever other company comes up with a replacement, whether it's YouTube, Instagram, whatever -- I'm sure a huge [part] of their base that TikTok had would just shift over."

On Thursday, TikTok experienced a glitch that caused the amount of "likes" on certain videos to disappear. In a statement to ABC News, a TikTok spokesperson said, "The issues appear to have been caused by higher traffic than normal on our servers in Virginia, causing temporary service disruptions." TikTok added they have since resolved the issue.

But that didn't stop some TikTok users from thinking the glitch was related to recent events.

"All of the sudden my comments section was flooded with, 'This is the end! Goodbye!'" said Eckroth.

And many were quick to follow their favorite creators on other platforms.

"I think I gained about 2,000 [followers] on Instagram in under 24 hours," said Griffin.