The US ban on TikTok is hypocrisy at its finest… So, could Australia follow suit?

It’s the first time in history the US government has singled out a social media giant, in a move that free speech advocates claim is more common in repressive regimes. OP Digital Solutions' CEO and founder, Jonathan Valanidas, breaks down the move and the potential implications for media and marketing.

No one could have predicted the meteoric rise of an app founded on the premise of teenagers watching D-grade celebrities awkwardly dancing to songs. Yet here we are, 8 years on, with over one billion monthly active users and an alleged threat to American data security.

So, what are the implications for the American public and the perception of the US government as a whole?

Goodbye to First Amendment rights

We’ve all seen one of those patriotic American films where the main character is aggressively advocating for their constitutional rights. It’s no wonder the US government’s recent decision to ban social media giant, TikTok has had such an impact.

The move could also ultimately infringe on the First Amendment rights of users in the US because the platform serves as a safe space for creative expression, allowing people to share their views, art and ideas. TikTok as a whole is an arena for freedom of speech and banning it could set a concerning precedent for the limitation of access to other digital platforms.

A handicap on global competition

America currently holds the largest array of TikTok content creators (as per Modash, 2024) with more than ten million users producing content for the platform each month. The restriction could hinder Americans fiscally, with creator funds and UGC contributing significantly to the American economy. (YouTube estimates content creators contributed $35 billion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2022). Banning the platform could also isolate US users from global conversations and trends.

Strangling innovation

TikTok has evolved the digital landscape over the last few years while Instagram and Facebook have remained relatively stagnant. By omitting TikTok from American society, users could have their technological progress reduced, and there would be less pressure to improve and innovate social media.

Tiktok has been a healthy competitor that has been fundamental in removing the stranglehold of Meta-owned platforms which are often seen as a monopoly.

Blind hypocrisy

The US government has made it known that TikTok may remain as a social media platform if it is purchased by a ‘government-approved buyer’ – currently a majority share of the platform is owned by the Chinese-owned ‘ByteDance’. The problem with this is that Meta is a government-approved company, despite being riddled with privacy breaches, some of which have quite literally impacted US election outcomes (Cambridge Analytica, 2016). Meta has paid more than $6.8 billion USD since 2016 in fines to different governing bodies around the globe, specifically due to breaching user data and privacy concerns.

The ACCC recently found Meta guilty of misleading the Australian government by saying that it was protecting Australian user’s personal information, only to find out that our data was used for commercial purposes. So, using the US-based approach, should we also ban Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp now?

Censorship concerns

Americans seemingly poked fun at China when they eliminated Facebook. Implementing a ban could raise concerns about censorship and governmental control over accessible information and technology. It would further raise questions and circulate debate over the criteria and justification for banning certain apps while allowing others.

It seems that there is a very strict double standard.

What will Australia do?

Australia is currently poised to retain TikTok on both the Apple Store and the Play store. No doubt our government will be analysing the impact of this decision in the US. We’re not anticipating any nasty surprises from our government, as we’ve historically been pretty underwhelming with our punishment of the misuse of data from social media giants. We’re expecting things to stay as is for the foreseeable future, assuming that TikTok doesn’t make any catastrophic data breaches (even if it does, the precedent has been set with a limp approach to disciplining Meta).

Owning a digital agency means that my team use both Meta and TikTok on the daily to yield results for our clients. From my perspective, the US government seems to be making a short-sighted decision, filled with irony and double standards. If you’re truly concerned about data and privacy, then focus on setting attainable standards for both Meta and TikTok, so that the global digital landscape can be safer, for everyone.

Concerns over privacy and data are fair and have merit, however, banning a platform that millions of people use regularly seems to be a disproportionate response to a platform that can also be used as a tool for education, entertainment, creative expression, social connection and dance moves of course!

Jonathan Valanidas is founder and CEO of OP Digital Solutions.


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