The State of TikTok

With the future of TikTok being undetermined and several pieces of legislation moving in Congress, here’s the latest breakdown of basic information around the popular social media app.

Although the app holds a worldwide appeal, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company subject to Chinese laws. These laws force businesses to share user data with the Chinese government if requested. This implies that ByteDance could theoretically make TikTok push certain kinds of content such as propaganda or disinformation on American users, which has caused concern among U.S. government officials and is the reasoning behind the launch of legislation being proposed to put more regulations into place in the U.S.

Current Legislation in Congress

As a response to the concerns around the use of TikTok nationally, there’s currently a bill going through Congress called the RESTRICT ACT, “Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology” Act, or Senate Bill 686, which would ban TikTok nationwide in the U.S. The RESTRICT Act wouldn’t target TikTok specifically, but instead would authorize the Secretary of Commerce under orders of the President to restrict or ban digital products and services from countries deemed to be foreign adversaries including: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. 

Along with the RESTRICT Act, there are several other bills that have been proposed by U.S. senators. These lawmakers support a national ban on TikTok and most of their bills aim to undercut the Berman amendments to achieve this goal. The Berman amendments were put into place to protect the rights of American citizens to receive information regardless of country of origin.

Another bill currently in Congress is the DATA Act, or “The Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries” Act, which would direct President Biden to sanction or ban TikTok if the administration determined it shared U.S. user data with individuals associated with the Chinese government. 

As of June 2, 2023, a new regulation banned the use of TikTok for federal contractors. The new acquisition regulation bans contractors from using the popular social media app on any device used for official business.

State Bans in 2023

In April of 2023, Montana was the first U.S. state to ban TikTok state-wide impacting nearly all personal devices within state lines. As a result, TikTok is suing the state of Montana on the basis of violating the First Amendment right of free speech. 

Additionally, in 27 U.S. states, TikTok has been banned on government devices. Many states have also extended this ban to other Chinese-owned apps and platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, Alibaba, and Huawei Technologies. The use of TikTok is also banned in universities across the state of Florida and students are unable to use campus Wi-Fi or school-owned devices to access the app. Other public universities have followed suit and are banning TikTok on school networks as well.

Many U.S. states are considering or have already instated a partial ban on TikTok on government devices, however, Montana is the only state that has taken the measure to completely ban the app state-wide, which will be going into effect on January 1, 2024. As of now, there are no other states pursuing a total ban of the app.


In response to heightened scrutiny, TikTok is in the process of launching Project Texas to allay concerns over the Chinese government’s potential influence over the app and its potential access to user data. As multiple pieces of legislation remain in discussion in Congress, some experts say the most likely path for a national ban would be an executive order, however, concerns over a ban’s infringement upon America’s First Amendment rights have posed a barrier to progress. It’s likely a state-by-state ban would not be feasible because there is no way to geofence app downloads at state lines. President Biden could compel ByteDance to divest from TikTok, however, this action would trigger complicated litigation and TikTok would be able to continue operating and acquiring users for years as legal issues work to be resolved. 

The most likely way a ban would take place would be through an executive order citing national grounds to forbid business transactions defined as services that facilitate the app’s operations and distribution, meaning the user would have a much more difficult time finding the app. Since TikTok doesn’t have the ability to geofence apps on a state-by-state basis, it would make it impossible for a restriction to be enforced in popular app marketplaces such as the Apple App Store or Google Play App Store.

Even with current legislation underway to put more regulations into place around TikTok, users and companies have not backed away from using the app. A survey conducted by PRNEWS back in March, found that 62% of those surveyed would not discontinue using TikTok to promote their organization. Many brands are continuing to monitor the situation, but are not leaving the app. With the number of TikTok users growing over 800% in just the last few years, the app is continuing on an upward trend of acquiring users, making it a hotspot for companies to promote their image and products. Some of the assets companies can use to enhance their marketing appeal include hosting live streams, interacting with comments, and utilizing engaging content to catch their intended audience’s attention.

Since TikTok has provided a platform for businesses to establish relationships with their audience, a ban on the app could have a negative effect and modify the way that public relations can be executed on social media. This is especially true for businesses targeting young audiences, since Gen Z makes up a large portion of TikTok’s users. TikTok’s short video clips have the ability to capture and hold the user’s attention, as well as use word-of-mouth advertising where influencers can offer their perspective on what a company is promoting. 

Even with a very uncertain future, it looks like TikTok isn’t going anywhere just yet and will continue to be a popular social media app among users.


This article was written by Suzanne Fuller, a Graduate Development Professional at FleishmanHillard.