Back in March the White House backed a bipartisan Senate bill known as the RESTRICT Act which would give the Biden Administration the authority to ban social media apps like TikTok due to security concerns about user data. The bill however has been in limbo ever since, likely in part to the debt ceiling negotiations taking congressional and public focus elsewhere.

Nevertheless, over 20 states have taken action on their own by prohibiting the use of TikTok on state-issued devices and at some public universities. Montana has gone a step further, becoming the first state to pass a law completely banning the app by prohibiting downloads within its borders, although the move will not prohibit usage among those who have already downloaded the app. 

The majority are still concerned about the privacy and security of TikTok.

Even as the debt ceiling conversation pushed TikTok to the back-burner, recent CivicScience data show that 75% of Americans say they’re at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about the security risks associated with TikTok – with nearly half (45%) reporting they’re ‘very concerned.’ That said, the percentage of those ‘not at all concerned’ increased to 25% from 23% in March, data collected immediately following the Biden Administration’s announcement backing the RESTRICT Act.

Among TikTok users, two-thirds have some level of concern about data and privacy risks. Daily users are the most likely to say they are ‘very concerned.’

TikTok bans at the state-level garner majority support.

The RESTRICT Act received strong support among Americans, but where do they stand on movements among states, such as Montana’s recent TikTok ban? New CivicScience data reveal over half of U.S. adults express at least some degree of approval for these state-level efforts, with 32% indicating they ‘strongly approve.’ Conversely, 30% report varying degrees of disapproval, with 16% saying they ‘strongly disapprove’ of the ban.

CivicScience data for the month of June show 35% of U.S. adults report they are users of the platform (the largest share of which coming from Gen Z), alongside a further 7% who plan to join in the future. But to truly gauge the potential impact of TikTok bans, it’s important to examine how people utilize the platform to begin with.

A majority (77%) turn to TikTok for entertainment purposes. However, CivicScience data show that users engage with the platform for more than just entertainment, like viral dance trends. Socially, 18% of TikTok users seek connections by looking for like-minded communities, while smaller shares use it to stay updated on what their contacts are doing (12%), or to talk with family and friends (10%).

TikTok also serves as a source of information, be it for inspiration and ideas (24%), news (18%), or as a search engine (17%). Just 1-in-10 say they use it to shop for and research products (10%). 

Ads and influencers drive purchases.

With such a wide variety of uses, TikTok has shown it has the power to drive and influence purchasing decisions. One way is through in-app advertisements, whether videos or images. As many as 18% of TikTok users say they’ve made a purchase for a product or service after coming upon an advertisement for it while scrolling through TikTok in the past six months. That percentage doubles among Gen Z adults (42%) and younger Millennials aged 25-34 (35%). 

Daily TikTok users are also more likely to be influenced/de-influenced overall by content creators toward or against a purchase, compared to other video platforms like Instagram and YouTube. This influence has not gone unnoticed by major brands, as demonstrated by PepsiCo’s recent partnership with Keith Lee, a popular TikTok food reviewer with nearly 13 million followers. 

Clearly TikTok is a powerful tool for brands to reach young audiences. If a TikTok ban were to happen, would alternative platforms be able to absorb former users?

In the event that TikTok were to be banned completely, a plurality (29%) of TikTok users say they would most likely use Facebook as their fallback social media platform, with Instagram (21%) not far behind. YouTube (18%) also looks to benefit, most likely due in part to its ‘Shorts’ feature which is similar in nature to TikTok. Newer social media platform BeReal, despite being copied by TikTok at one point, is much less likely of a choice (3%).

The future of TikTok bans remains uncertain. Will other states follow Montana’s lead? Can these bans withstand legal challenges? Will the federal government follow through on the RESTRICT Act? What is clear, however, is the potential impact of further bans on TikTok users and the businesses leveraging the platform for reach and growth.

Want to stay up to date with real-time consumer insights as the TikTok story evolves? Get in touch.