TikTok use surges amid possible regulations

WASHINGTON D.C. — Short videos of pets, dancing, recipes, and celebrities fill the social media site TikTok with the company’s algorithm quickly finding out what users are interested in, and then delivering a steady stream of that individually curated content.


TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance has seen incredible growth since launching in the US with the platform now boasting about 170 million users.  One of the largest groups of users is college students, with half of TikTok’s US users between the ages of 18 and 34.

“I think that that demographic definitely has a preference for that short-term, short-form video,” says Huy Nguyen, Intelligent.com’s Chief Education and Career Development Advisor. “They find creators that are related, they can relate to and, so they get all of their information from there.”

A new study by Intelligent.com reveals while college-age users are the largest group they are also aware that the platform is taking up their free time, although most see that as a benefit.

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“We had about 25% of the respondents actually say that they would be more productive, it could actually help with mental health as well because there are a lot of things where you just kind of get, you know, get trapped in consuming content,” says Nguyen.

The same study also found students split on a possible ban of the site, due to its connections to the Chinese government.

“That algorithm, that artificial intelligence machine that controls TikTok, is owned by Chinese company ByteDance,” says Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida).  “I don’t know if ByteDance wants to be involved in helping the Chinese government. I know ByteDance has no choice but to help the Chinese government under the Chinese national security law.”

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Congress is right now considering legislation to limit TikTok’s ability to reach US users, as long as it is controlled by China.

“So what happens if China decides we’re going to start a war with America over Taiwan or somewhere else? They will tell ByteDance, that we want you to start making sure that the users in America are seeing videos that promote our narrative about Taiwan and start convincing Americans, that you guys shouldn’t intervene. You shouldn’t go to war. Taiwan is wrong. China is right,” says Rubio.

The US House is moving forward with a plan that will force TikTok to either divest itself from China or face a ban.  The legislation has broad bipartisan support, however, final details have not been released.

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