In early July, concerns over TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government and its data privacy practices caused Indian officials to ban the app there, where TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has invested over $1 billion to build its user base.
Following a ban in TikTok’s largest market, threats made by President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ban TikTok in the US have sent influencers into a frenzy of confusion about how to proceed.
A TikTok ban in the US would likely strip TikTok influencers of the ability to earn money through branded deals and force them to migrate to other social media platforms. In fact, some TikTok influencers have already started distancing themselves from the app so as to prevent future losses.
Perhaps in a move meant to encourage its creators to stay, TikTok just announced a $200 million program from which it will directly pay “TikTok creators who’ve built careers through the platform” for their content. TikTok will accept applications from US creators starting in August and begin distributing funds in 2021. To be eligible, creators must be 18 years or older, have a certain amount of followers and consistently post original content that aligns with TikTok’s community guidelines.
On July 9, mega gaming creator Tyler Blevins, who goes by Ninja and had over 4 million TikTok followers, tweeted saying he deleted TikTok from all his devices due to data farming concerns.
Another drawback of TikTok getting banned in the US is that some TikTok influencers’ inordinate number of followers might not translate to rival platforms such as Dubsmash, Triller, YouTube or Snapchat.
For example, Ty Gibson, a TikTok influencer who had 4.6 million followers on the app, posted a farewell video asking his fans to follow him on Instagram and YouTube, where he has a much smaller following, 94,000 and 58,000 followers, respectively. Since then, he has deleted his TikTok profile altogether.
“I’ve heard of Dubsmash. I’ve heard of Byte, but it’s just not TikTok,” Q Shamar Stenline, who has 4.4 million TikTok followers, told the New York Times.
The recently announced creator program adds to TikTok’s current monetary offerings for creators including TikTok live streams, through which influencers can earn a portion of fan-bought emojis sent during the stream. And the TikTok creator marketplace, where brands can find and secure deals with TikTok influencers.
A week before TikTok announced its creator fund, accounts connected to President Trump’s campaign posted 450 separate ads on Instagram and Facebook upbraiding TikTok. In one 30-second spot, an Asian man peering through binoculars replaces the TikTok logo and says, “TikTok is spying on you.” Women ages 18 between 34 accounted for over half of the video’s viewers, according to Business Insider.
Adding fuel to the President’s growing hostility toward TikTok, US lawmakers recently voted to prohibit federal employees from downloading or using TikTok on government-issued devices.