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The US is going to ban TikTok? We answer your important questions

After many efforts to prohibit the Chinese-owned app, including by former President Donald Trump, a law to make the widely used video-sharing app illegal has been approved by Congress and is en route to President Biden for his approval. The

No, TikTok will not suddenly disappear from your phone. And you won't go to jail if you keep using it after it's banned.

After trying many times over the years to stop the Chinese-owned app, including by former President Donald Trump, a law to make the popular video-sharing app illegal has gained the approval of Congress and is on its way to President Biden for his approval. The law gives the parent company ByteDance, based in Beijing, nine months to sell the company, with a potential extra three months if a sale is in progress. If they don't, TikTok will be banned.

So what does this mean for you, a TikTok user, or maybe a parent of a TikTok user? Here are some important questions and answers.


The original plan gave ByteDance only six months to sell its U.S. subsidiary, negotiations extended it to nine. Then, if the sale is already happening, the company will have three more months to finish it.

So it would be at least a year before the ban is put into action — but with probable court challenges, this could stretch even longer, maybe even years. TikTok has had some success with court challenges in the past, but it has never tried to stop federal laws from taking effect.


TikTok, which is used by over 170 million Americans, most likely won’t vanish from your phone even if a ban eventually happens. But it would disappear from Apple and Google’s app stores, which means users won’t be able to download it. This would also mean that TikTok wouldn’t be able to send updates, security patches, and bug fixes, and over time the app would probably become unusable — not to mention a security risk.


Teenagers are known for finding a way around parental controls and bans when it comes to social media, so avoiding the U.S. government’s ban is certainly possible. For example, users could try to hide their location using a VPN, or virtual private network, use alternative app stores, or even install a foreign SIM card into their phone.

But some technical skills are needed, and it’s not clear what will and won’t work. More likely, users will move to another platform — such as Instagram, which has a TikTok-like feature called Reels, or YouTube, which has integrated vertical short videos in its feed to try to compete with TikTok. Often, these videos are taken directly from TikTok itself. And popular creators are likely to be found on other platforms as well, so you’ll probably be able to see the same stuff.

“The TikTok bill depends heavily on the power that Apple and Google hold over their smartphone platforms because the bill’s main method is to direct Apple and Google to stop allowing the TikTok app on their respective app stores,” said Dean Ball, a research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “Such a method might be much less effective in the world envisioned by many advocates of antitrust and aggressive regulation against the large tech firms.”

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