Will it really disappear? Everything you need to know about the potential TikTok ban in the United States

Spoiler: No, the social network is not banned yet. But it likely will be in the future.

If you are a TikTok user in the United States, you have probably already heard the latest news about the famous Chinese social network. The Senate approved bipartisan legislation that will potentially ban TikTok in the country. The bill is on its way to President Joe Biden's desk. He will likely sign the bill into law this Wednesday.

This is a measure promoted by Republicans and Democrats to protect Americans' data from China and also from controversial content on the social network. Meanwhile, TikTok has repeatedly said it never shared American users' data with the Chinese regime.

However, it is important to highlight the fact that TikTok, at least for now, will not go away and there is still a long way to go before that can happen.

What does the bill really say?

This new bill (the House of Representatives had previously voted in March in favor of other legislation to ban TikTok that was ultimately not addressed in the Senate) basically forces ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to sell the app within nine months, otherwise, it will be officially banned in the United States.

If ByteDance does not find a buyer (or does not want to), then it will be “unlawful for an entity to distribute, maintain or update” the app. That means that no person in the United States will be able to download or update TikTok from app stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

However, President Joe Biden has the power to extend the ban period for three more months if he sees that there is considerable progress towards a purchase.

In short, TikTok will survive at least nine more months in the United States. For the rest of 2024, users will be able to use the app without problems. There is a chance that this will not change if the company finds a buyer.

Does TikTok want to sell?

This is a more complex topic.

Michael Beckerman, TikTok's vice president and head of public policy for the Americas, said that this passage of the bill was just the beginning of a very long road to the ban and that TikTok plans to fight in court so that the app does not disappear in the country.

In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal: “TikTok and creators who use the platform as a source of income are expected to sue to stop the ban, much as they did when former President Donald Trump tried to block the app through executive order in 2020.”

So get ready, because there will still be plenty of headlines and information surrounding the TikTok “ban” as upcoming federal litigation moves forward that will address, among other things, whether or not the law violates the First Amendment and other legal challenges.

What happens if TikTok does get banned?

Assuming that TikTok fails to sell the app and loses the litigation against the approved legislation, with the ban then taking effect in 2025, what will happen next is that users will be able to keep TikTok on their cell phones, but they won't be able to update the app.

By not being able to update the app, eventually users' data will be exposed, vulnerable and the app itself will stop working completely.

Another situation that could occur is that TikTok complies with the ban and disables access to its service in the United States, as Alp Toker, director of the company NetBlocks, explained to the WSJ.

What about VPNs?

Many users have already begun to investigate whether it is possible to install a VPN on their cell phones to use TikTok in the United States in case the ban goes into effect.

According to the WSJ, while a VPN network allows you to hide your browsing data and be located anywhere in the world while you are actually in the United States, it does not necessarily work to be able to use TikTok in the country in the event of a ban.

“VPNs likely wouldn’t solve the issue of app degradation over time. And the VPN route may not work at all if TikTok is compelled to disable U.S.-registered accounts even when accessed from other countries.”

The only certain thing is that, for now, TikTok has not been banned nor will it go away in 2024. However, this year will be decisive in determining whether the app will continue to function in the United States next year.