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How The US TikTok Ban Will Impact Arabs And Other Minorities

posted on: Aug 5, 2020

How The US TikTok Ban Will Impact Arabs And Other Minorities

By Emily Tain/Arab America Contributing Writer                  TikTok, the hottest social media app in almost every country has come under fire recently due to data mining concerns. Made in China, the app is home to 800 million active users and has been downloaded “over 2 billion times” since its creation. Several countries have already banned the app, most notably India. Unfortunately for some, the US might be next on the list; President Trump has announced that Congress is looking into banning the app from US app stores. About 1/10th of active users are from the US, meaning that the app would take a big hit with the loss of a US audience.

For You Page

How a US TikTok Ban will Impact Arabs and other Minorities
Courtesy of Influencer Marketing Hub                                                              One of the biggest assets TikTok has is the For You Page. An innovator in its field, the For You Page uses an algorithm based on your interests that provides non-stop content. While other social media platforms require you to follow individuals in order to have a flowing feed, TikTok takes your likes and presents similar videos to you. Granted, inhibitors like shadow-banning -when your content is not shown on the For You Page as often as it should be- still exist. However, many creators say that they would not have been able to find the same success had the For You Page not existed.

Impact on Marginalized Communities

This is especially important for minority users, like BIPOC and the LGBT+ community. The For You Page has allowed them to find a community on the app as well as people who are interested in learning more. For example, May 19th, 2020 was a “blackout” in which non-black creators were encouraged to refrain from posting so that black voices could be heard. This filled For You Pages with content from black creators users might not have seen otherwise.

How a US TikTok Ban will Impact Arabs and other Minorities
Courtesy of YouTube                                                                                        Finding a community can be very empowering for individuals within oppressed groups. To learn more about Arab American creators specifically, check out my article on TikTok, comedy, and the Arab American identity. As addressed in this article, Arab TikTok creators are able to use the platform to find others like them and often create videos specifically about their heritage. This includes translating memes into Arabic, POV videos about going to your family members’ houses, and social commentary parodying stupid questions Arabs often get. As someone studying the Middle East in an educational setting, seeing less formal and more culture-based material has added depth to my knowledge of the region. This is the case for many other users who may not live in diverse areas.

A Tool for Organization

How a US TikTok Ban will Impact Arabs and other Minorities
Courtesy of Inside Edition on Youtube                                                          TikTok is also a platform for mass organization. Most notoriously is the Trump Tulsa rally project in which users registered for the rally under a pseudonym in order to inflate the attendance numbers. Less widespread but equally as important are PSAs about organized economic blackouts or protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. Again, the For You Page has changed the game for mass organization in that videos are more likely to go viral under its algorithm.

TikTok’s Future

It is for these reasons that a US ban on TikTok would be so detrimental for its users. Composed of mostly Gen Z and Millennials, the app has allowed millions of people to organize and spread information at an incredibly quick pace. BIPOC and LGBT+ users are even more affected, as the For You Page has given them a platform that other apps will not. Creators are able to form communities around their identities whilst educating those that wish to know more.

The main argument that users bring forward is that of US hypocrisy. Congress’ reasoning for banning the app is because the app collects users’ data. While apps like Facebook and Instagram do this on a daily basis, TikTok is different because of Chinese influence. Creators argue that data mining occurs regardless, so why does it matter if it is China or Mark Zuckerberg that has it?

How a US TikTok Ban will Impact Arabs and other MinoritiesUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, courtesy of CNBC                    Recently, tech powerhouse Microsoft has come forward with their plan to purchase TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Microsoft claims that they will transfer US TikTok users’ data back to the US and keep it there. This acquisition would secure Microsoft’s position as a top competitor against Google, Sony, and Nintendo, as well as assuage the fears of American users.

Is There a Solution?

The debate is likely to continue until either Congress makes a decision regarding the app or Microsoft completes the deal. With the threat of deletion looming in the air, creators are encouraging their followers to find them on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube so that they can continue creating content should TikTok no longer be an option. Rivaling apps like Thriller are also seeing a spike in downloads as users desperately try to find a fitting alternative.


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