Not only does TikTok provide specific content directed towards its viewer, but it also makes fame possible. The algorithm selects videos that it believes has the potential to go viral.

Alyssa Carlson and Emma Hughes

Picture this: a lone red gummy bear sitting atop a dimly lit stage as the rich voice of Adele filters in. Singing “Someone Like You,” Adele’s familiar voice is accompanied by thousands of other voices from the audience as the camera pans out to reveal hundreds of other gummy bears. This seemingly innocent video, posted in December 2018, garnered millions of views within mere seconds on the upcoming app, TikTok. 

This new app originated from two similar apps before becoming the phenomenon it is today. The first app that inspired the creation of TikTok was launched in Shanghai in 2014 and called Musical.ly. The second is Douyin from the Chinese company ByteDance. In 2018, ByteDance bought Musical.ly and created a new brand – TikTok. TikTok took off around the world gaining popularity and the eye of politicians. 

As the geopolitical tension continues the rise between the United States and China, TikTok has become the center of political discussion due to censorship claims. On July 31, President Trump told reporters that he was going to begin working to ban the popular app from the United States. Prior to the president’s statement, US officials have cited concerns involving the possible risk of national security breaches due to the use of the Chinese backed technology used in TikTok. 

President Trump previously stated that if TikTok did not have a US buyer by September 15, the app would be permanently shut down in the United States; however, this date has now been moved to September 20 due to China’s reluctance to sell the app because of its unique algorithm. 

Junior David Green, a TikTok user with one million followers, explains his love for the app and more specifically, the algorithm.

“My favorite aspect of TikTok is the algorithm. I love how your feed is catered to you and what you find funny and what you enjoy. Like, I will never receive random racists on my feed. But if I went on another platform, it would not always be specific to me,” said Green.

Not only does TikTok provide specific content directed towards its viewer, but it also makes fame possible. The algorithm selects videos that it believes has the potential to go viral. These videos are added to the “For You Page” where users typically spend most of their time scrolling on the app. The concept is simple: if the video is funny, creative, and authentic, it will travel, regardless of the number of followers the creator has. Because of this idea, people from all across the globe are compelled to post videos that showcase their culture, skills, and talents. 

This popular algorithm has caused China to intensify negotiations, some reports claim the country would rather shut down the app than give away the famous algorithm. Speculation began in August involving the American company Microsoft buying the app, something President Trump has stated he is against. On September 13th the two companies announced they would not be entering into an agreement, as TikTok has reportedly rejected Microsoft’s offer. Due to this rejection, it appears that Oracle Corporation, a computer software company, has won the bidding war and entered into negotiations with ByteDance. The two companies must come to a middle ground that appeals to both the United States government and the Chinese authorities. This middle ground is critical in allowing the app to remain active in the United States. 

Senior Simone Wright, an avid TikTok user, explains her view on the potential ban and the origin of the dispute.

“I don’t believe TikTok is getting banned because it is supposed to be getting bought by an American company. This whole conversation about the banning of TikTok started after some trolls reserved tickets to one of President Trump’s rallies and didn’t show up. He has turned a situation that was meant to be a joke into a whole mess. Hopefully, TikTok doesn’t get banned because it’s an all inclusive platform,” said Wright.

Green also shares his opinion on the possible ban of TikTok.

“I think that Gen Z has taken TikTok as an app and used it to really educate ourselves and learn about the world. A lot of people from our generation are really coming together and learning about a lot of social issues through TikTok. It would be a really big loss if we lose it,” said Green.

TikTok allows for people to have a creative outlet where they can express themselves through dance, art, singing, and so much more. It has become a way for people to come together and educate each other on social and cultural matters. Due to the complex algorithm that caters to each user, TikTok acts as an oasis many can turn to and get lost in. A ban on the app would dramatically alter the social media world and the way that millions of people express themselves.