The sands of time are counting down for TikTok in the US

One year until TikTok is banned in the USA

The US Senate votes to force Bytedance to sell TikTok — or see it banned in the US. Social media is the new geopolitical battleground.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Well, the US Senate actually went and did it. The wheels are in motion to ban TikTok there. This is something very new to those of us in the western world: a government trying to shut down a social media app.

When I started writing here over 21 years ago, what we now call social media was largely a joke to the majority of people. Those of you old enough will remember Andrew Marr calling bloggers “inadequate, pimpled and single”, and people dismissing Instagram as people posting what they had for their lunch. 

Social media today? It’s now part of the great game of global politics, with two superpowers skirmishing over it. Last night, against most people’s expectations, the US Senate passed the bill to force a sale of TikTok to a non-Chinese company — or ban it from the US:

Once signed by the president, ByteDance would have up to a year to complete a sale of TikTok or face an effective ban for the platform in the US. The bill gives ByteDance an initial nine months and gives the president discretion to extend it another three should there be progress toward a deal.

Biden has already committed to signing it. So, the clock is ticking on TikTok in the US, although, in theory, that period extends into the term of the next US President… 

The interesting part of this is that we’ll find out pretty quickly how important TikTok is to the soft influence operations of China based on how they react. If they sell, then, yes, it’s just a business. If they don’t, or try to come to some form of weaselly compromise, we’ll know that the worst fears about TikTok being used as a tool of the Chinese government are, at least partially, true. 

Interesting times, indeed. 

Obviously, a sale would be good news to those newsrooms who have committed time and effort into building TikTok teams. And a ban would be worse news because it’s likely other governments elsewhere in the world would follow the same path, once it becomes clear that TikTok is being used as a propaganda tool.

China wields the social media ban hammer 

Of course, China itself has been more direct in its actions. It has told Apple to pull the Threads and WhatsApp apps from their App Store in China:

“The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the removal of these apps from the China storefront based on their national security concerns,” Apple said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We are obligated to follow the laws in the countries where we operate, even when we disagree.”

Long-term China watchers will be unsurprised by this. The internet on the other side of the Great Firewall of China is a quite unfamiliar place, and largely revolves around WeChat these days. 

It’s a stark reminder of the political differences between the two nations that a TikTok ban was mooted back in the (first?) Trump administration, and is only now becoming a reality. While China can and does shut down non-local social media swiftly and efficiently. 

The next year will be very interesting for anyone deeply committed to social video…

(But you are using your ”TikTok team” to do more than TikTok, right?) 

Threads versus Bluesky

As the field of potential Twitter replacements thins, the contenders left are developing their own… well, is “character” really the right word here? 

Here’s Casey Newton on the tenor of Threads and Bluesky:

Threads] also remains utterly humorless; to find a handful of good posts to conclude each edition of Platformer, I now have to scroll through approximately 40 screen-miles of progressive activism on Bluesky to find three posts reminiscent enough of Weird Twitter to justify inclusion.

Obligatory AI corner

Adobe has announced some major new AI features in its creative Cloud apps. Firefly, its generative AI image creator, is getting an update, which allows more photorealistic imagery:

Adobe Firefly Generative AI Version 3 Looks to Catch Up to the Competition
Firefly is rapidly catching up the competition thanks to version 3.

I've had a play, and while the results are often impressive, it really doesn't want to give you results which are moody or challenging. Midjourney handles that sort of stuff much better. But if you're looking for free stock images (that are helping burn the world…), then it's worth a look.

And lots of these features are finding their way into Photoshop, too:

Adobe Introduces One of Its Most Significant Photoshop Updates Ever
An AI-powered revolution for Photoshop.

And then there's video creation. This headline tells you everything you need to know about that:

Adobe’s new generative AI tools for video are absolutely terrifying
Oh hell no.

Tidal wave of video misinformation on its way, friends. Find the high ground, and soon.

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Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.