More than 3 billion people are currently banned from using TikTok

US is latest to push forward with ban of China-owned app

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 25 April 2024 11:21 BST
Countries where TikTok is either banned (black), partially banned (red) or unavailable (grey) in April 2024
Countries where TikTok is either banned (black), partially banned (red) or unavailable (grey) in April 2024 (The Independent)

TikTok is facing the prospect of being banned or unavailable for nearly half the world’s population after the US moved to outlaw the app.

The sell-or-divest bill, which is expected to be signed into law by US President Joe Biden, could see TikTok completely blocked in the country within the next year.

It comes four years after India issued a total ban of the China-owned app, with Iran, Senegal, Nepal, Afghanistan and Somalia also preventing their citizens from using the app. The app is also unavailable in China, meaning more than 3 billion people around the world are unable to access TikTok.

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Several other regions and countries have also enacted partial bans on government or military devices, including the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.

Despite the bans, TikTok has still succeeded in becoming one of the most popular apps in the world, passing 2 billion active users in 2024.

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The national bans focus on either state censorship or fears surrounding national security.

Lawmakers in the US fear TikTok’s parent company ByteDance could share user data with the Chinese government, while others claim the app’s algorithm could be used to spread propaganda and misinformation.

TikTok said in a statement that a ban in the US would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans”.

Data from analytics firm Appfigures reveals that TikTok was the second most popular app in the US last year in terms of downloads, topped only by the shopping app Temu.

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Its popularity mostly comes from younger generations, with figures from Statista showing that more than 70 per cent of TikTok users globally are under 35. Fewer than 7 per cent are over 55. The average age of a representative in the US Congress is 58, while the average age of a senator in 2024 is 64.

A survey from Pew Research Centre also revealed that younger people trust the app more than older users, with more than 30 per cent of US TikTok users between the ages of 18 and 29 using it as a regular news source, compared to just 3 per cent of over-65s.

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TikTok has said it will challenge any attempt to ban the app in the US.

Michael Beckerman, who head’s the company’s public policy team, wrote to staff this week that the latest bill was “the beginning, not the end, of this long process”.

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