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After Finding Community and Success on TikTok, A U.S. Ban Could Be Devastating for Some Users



A potential U.S. ban on the social media app TikTok could be devastating for smaller creators and the niche communities they’ve built, which may not easily translate to other platforms. President Joe Biden last year signed a bill into law banning TikTok on all federal devices due to national security concerns. The administration has called on TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell the app or face a total ban in the U.S. In Montana, a bill that bans TikTok for everyone in the state is awaiting Gov. Greg Gianforte’s signature. A ban would “affect niche communities substantially,” according to stand-up comedian Ryan Kelly, who has 4.8 million followers on TikTok. “Even with a large following it still startles us, every community feels niche in its own way.” While there are other video-based platforms, their formats are different and they don’t have the same algorithmic success that made TikTok so popular. “Though the content may change platforms the accessibility will not transfer, making it difficult for creators to find the platform that their community finds most usable,” Kelly said. “TikTok being so audio-centric, I believe my storytelling style of comedy would not be as successful on other platforms.” Even the bigger creators are “currently experiencing a lull in views,” Kelly said. “This downturn coupled with a ban could fully remove some creators for the space permanently.” While some of the largest creators may successfully transition to other platforms, the micro-influencers will be much harder hit. “Niche communities, or what’s frequently referred to as micro-influencers, are incredibly important because of the closeness they exhibit with their audience,” Kelly said. “Removing them would greatly damage the creator market because their conversion rate is so high compared to larger creators.” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was called to testify before Congress last month, and was grilled about the Chinese government’s access to U.S. user data. “I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data,” Chew said. “They have never asked us, we have never provided it.” Nevertheless, Chew said the company is establishing a U.S.-based subsidiary, TikTok U.S. Data Security, in order to keep U.S. user data in the U.S., with servers run by U.S. company Oracle. TMX contributed to this story.

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