TikTok could be banned in the US today: 6 takeaways from latest lawsuit

Person holding phone with TikTok logo.Unsplash

The dust has settled on the US presidential election, but one key element of the current administration remains outstanding: the ongoing attempt to ban TikTok from the United States.

TikTok has been battling the US president and the Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, in multiple lawsuits for the last several months since the president said he thought the app was a national security risk, a claim which TikTok strenuously denies. A deadline, set earlier this summer, by which TikTok must have sold itself or shut down in the US falls today on Thursday, November 12.

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The company says they’ve not heard from the US administration about their ban, and have been forced to file an appeal in the District of Columbia circuit court of appeals to prevent them having to shut down.

Within the appeal, they explain the process they’ve encountered when dealing with the US government and reveal new details we haven’t heard before about the app’s history and its process of being banned.

Person holding smartphone with TikTok on it.Pexels: Oliver Bergeron
The US Government are considering banning TikTok from phones in the country.

Extra detail on user number

Right now, there are 98 million monthly active users in the United States. Those numbers are highlighted by TikTok’s lawyers as part of its vitality to American (and global) culture. The userbase, which has grown from the 9.9 million users TikTok inherited when it acquired Musical.ly in November 2017, makes “TikTok the fastest growing app in the country during that period,” they say.

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Not all those Musical.ly users are still there

Just a third of Musical.ly’s userbase migrated over to TikTok when the latter bought the former app. “Only 3.2 million of TikTok’s 98 million monthly active U.S. users had a Musical.ly app account at the time of the transaction,” admit TikTok’s legal team.

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When TikTok bought Musical.ly, it had 20 US employees

In November 2017, TikTok acquired Musical.ly and its staff. But only a handful were in the United States. “Out of nearly 300 Musical.ly company employees worldwide, 20 were based in the United States, and they were not responsible for core operations, such as software and product development,” they say.

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Musical.ly logo. Musical.ly
TikTok purchased Musical.ly in 2017, but only a third of it’s userbase moved to the new platform.

TikTok subsumed Musical.ly – entirely

“At the time of the acquisition, ByteDance examined the Musical.ly app’s source code and determined that Musical.ly’s platform—the mobile software application, server and data storage infrastructure, and its algorithm powering recommendations for user content—was technically and commercially inferior to TikTok,” says the appeal.

TikTok spent $300 million on advertising in the US last year

Before TikTok acquired Musical.ly, Musical.ly had spent a significant amount of money – $300,000 – on advertising its app in the United States.

But as TikTok has grown in stature, and ByteDance has funded its growth, that’s increased dramatically. In 2019, TikTok confirmed it spent $300 million on advertising in the United States: $820,000 a day.

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TikTok has supplied four possible solutions to the US’s concerns

Throughout the process of the last few months, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance have submitted four separate “mitigation proposals” to try and prevent its banning in the country. The latest was proposed on November 6, and “contemplated addressing the purported national security concerns through a restructuring of TikTok U.S. by creating a new entity, wholly owned by Oracle, Walmart and existing U.S. investors in ByteDance, that would be responsible for handling TikTok’s U.S. user data and content moderation.” To date, nothing has happened about it.

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