'TikTok Takeover’ Part III: What’s next for the app? Would restrictions or an outright ban threaten local businesses?
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Adults, kids and even content creators acknowledge the addictive nature of the app TikTok. On average, TikTok says its users spend about 95 minutes a day on the app. It's become a concern both on a personal level and a legal one.
After TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress in late March, lawmakers questioned whether to restrict or ban the app entirely.
"I think an outright ban, I don’t see that as the right solution to this problem," said Dr. Michael Zimmer, the Marquette University Director of Center for Data, Ethics and Society. "I think this is a larger question about privacy and algorithms and internet culture that is more than TikTok."
In front of Congress, Chew assured everyone that their commitment to move the data to the U.S. is underway.
"...to be stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel," he said.
"Project Texas" as it's called is a $1.5 billion massive corporate relocation plan to store all U.S. user data on U.S. servers.
For now, the push at the very least seems to be to remove TikTok from government-issued devices.
"We currently have restrictions for everything from tobacco to alcohol to probationary driver's license, gun access, voting and so we should have some restrictions and controls as it relates to social media companies," said Rep. David Steffen.
More than half of the states in the U.S. have already taken some sort of action against the app. Even in Wisconsin, Rep. Steffen formally introduced a proposal that would limit minors' usage of all social media apps.
"From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., so there's going to at least be nine hours in every day that parents can be assured that their kids are not inappropriately accessing social media," he explained.
Utah became the first state to enact laws limiting how children can use social media, now requiring parental consent before they even sign up. Most recently, Montana became the first state to ban TikTok entirely.
"Ours will strictly be a series of fines that will be applied by the state for not complying with the law,” said Rep. Steffen on his proposal. "There's roughly 800,000 children who would be impacted by this, every single violation is $100 per day times the individual.”
TikTok Content Creator Geo Rutherford said, she's not comfortable with that idea.
"I just don't think we should be doing that; I don’t think that's our responsibility," she said.
Rutherford added the government, in doing so, would be taking power of responsibility away from parents.
"Everybody kind of has to figure out the stopping point where they're like, ‘I don’t want this life anymore, I do not want to be spending eight hours a day on my phone or 10 hours or 12 hours.' And they have to kind of look at themselves and say, ‘What do I do to change this?’ But I don't think that the government needs to be involved in that journey,” she added.
Dr. Zimmer also agreed.
"I'm hesitant to embrace, you know, the government deciding that that's what we need to do, and I guess the irony is China has rules like that,” Dr. Zimmer said.
Restricting TikTok in any way, shape or form could also threaten small and local businesses. Rutherford added its algorithm is truly unmatched.
"If TikTok went out of business, I would also go out of business in a way; I think it would be very hard for me to get the same traction on Instagram or YouTube that I've managed to get on TikTok," Rutherford explained.
Both local Wisconsin content creators, Thomas "tpeck" Peck and Rutherford, say the money issue isn't nearly as big as the exposure.
“I graduated college with 1.5 million TikTok followers, wasn't making much money but I had a million followers there and I wanted to show them something, so that kind of, just, it pushed me to go do my own thing and branch out and show people what I love,” Peck said.
Because even with hundreds of millions of views, Rutherford said TikTok itself is not what's paying the bills.
"September of 2020 to today, I've made about $9,000 off of TikTok Creator Fund, that's it,” shared Rutherford. "The money that I've made off of TikTok has been from my artwork that I make so if I ever share a print that I'm doing or if I share artwork that I'm creating it's usually pretty easy for me to sell all of that,” she went on to say.
If major changes come out of the controversial platform, Peck said half of the U.S. population on TikTok will likely migrate elsewhere.
"I know five years ago, it was like long-form video on YouTube was kind of the top dog, and Vine came around and disappeared, and then TikTok came around, but I figured I wouldn't put all of my eggs into one basket,” Peck added. “Now, I wake up and post everywhere on different platforms.”