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TikTok's being blocked in US: Reasons, details and app's future in Ukraine

TikTok's being blocked in US: Reasons, details and app's future in Ukraine TikTok may be completely blocked in the US (photo: Getty Images)

In the US, there's a push to completely block TikTok, which is extremely popular among young people. This fate could also await the social network in Ukraine, especially since there are valid reasons for it.

RBС-Ukraine reports on what's wrong with TikTok, what threats it poses to national security, and whether the app affects the health of teenagers and adults.

The material was written with references to the following sources: Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, the official Telegram channel of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Radio Svoboda, Mashable, and The Wall Street Journal.


What's known about the possible blocking of TikTok in the US

The allocation of American aid to Ukraine, for which US Congress representatives promised to take action this week, took an unexpected turn.

During the night leading into Tuesday, according to Kyiv time, House Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled a package of four bills providing assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as a range of other measures regarding US national security.

Specifically, it also concerns the ban on the overwhelmingly popular social network TikTok in the US. Details are still unknown - the text of the bill promises to be published later.

However, it's likely to be similar to the one passed last month in the House of Representatives with a confident majority of votes.

It stipulates that ByteDance - the Chinese company that owns TikTok - must sell the app to another company approved by the US government. There's a six-month deadline for this, otherwise, TikTok will be banned in the US, where it has up to 170 million users.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce believes that blocking access to the TikTok network is not the worst option, as selling the company would deal a much stronger blow to both the company itself and the business it represents in China.

Regardless, the aforementioned bill still needs to be approved by the US Senate. However, President Joe Biden has already promised to sign it if approved.

It's worth noting that the potential value of TikTok is estimated at $100-150 billion. However according to reports from business media, ByteDance is refusing to sell the app, instead motivating its multi-million audience to protest against the TikTok ban in the US.

Whether these protests will escalate into mass demonstrations remains unknown. However, according to American media reports, China is not likely to react harshly to the ban, as it is not currently a priority for China and not such a significant economic segment of influence.

Will TikTok be blocked in Ukraine

So far, there haven't been any specific statements from high-ranking officials regarding a 100% block of this social network.

However, the head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech, Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, assures that if TikTok continues to ignore cases of Russian propaganda, the Ukrainian government will be forced to impose restrictions on ByteDance's product. Especially considering that Ukraine has experience in blocking social networks.

Additionally, according to the people's deputy, if the relevant Ukrainian authorities deem it necessary to block TikTok in our country, it will be done "without looking back at partners."

"We have a practice of blocking social networks, appeals from special services, meetings of the National Security and Defense Council, the President's decree, implementation, and judicial processes if necessary... The Center for Countering Disinformation under the National Security and Defense Council has identified an entire network engaged in Russian propaganda on TikTok. I haven't heard any response from TikTok. If TikTok doesn't react, and the situation only escalates, such a scenario may arise. For now, I understand that the government does not feel the need to do this. Well, and it's always better to try to negotiate first before resorting to the harshest measures," says Yurchyshyn.

It's interesting that almost immediately after this interview, a new trend Ukhylyant (Dodger) emerged on TikTok. It's a new Russian information operation against Ukraine.

Videos are spreading online where supposedly Ukrainian men film themselves on vacation and call themselves ukhylyants (dodgers).

Initially, some found it amusing. However, the further popularization of this trend indicates a deliberate information-psychological operation aimed at dividing society.

"Such content quickly gains views and comments from the audience - both approving and critical, but the discussions under these videos only push them into trends. For such content, "folk" songs were simultaneously created, the lyrics of which always reflect the main message - praising the ukhylyants," the statement from the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine on April 16 reads.

The synchronicity of the appearance of such content, the anonymity of the authors, and the promotion of these videos by organized groups of bots testify to the deliberate hostile propaganda campaign.

It's also worth noting that TikTok trends often feature content from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine by Russia, where "local residents" purportedly enjoy and boast about how well they are living since the occupiers arrived.

Thus, from the perspective of safeguarding territorial integrity and sovereignty, blocking TikTok for Ukrainian users seems quite logical.

In which countries TikTok is already blocked

Many countries have imposed restrictions on the use of TikTok on smartphones and other gadgets owned by government officials and parliamentarians, citing that the app poses an "unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security."

Currently, TikTok is partially or completely banned in countries such as:

- Afghanistan (Taliban banned TikTok, stating that the platform's content "does not comply with Islamic laws")

- Australia

- Belgium

- Denmark

- India

- Nepal (TikTok is banned here due to "social harmony violations")

- Netherlands

- New Zealand

- Norway

- Somalia

- Taiwan

- United Kingdom

It's worth noting that the list of countries that take actions against TikTok is continually growing.

TikTok's impact on people's health

Numerous results of scientific studies indicate that TikTok's algorithm regularly exposes users to content that can harm their mental health.

It's worth noting that psychologists emphasize that it's not the app itself but rather the content posted there that negatively affects mental health.

"We cannot directly attribute the impact to TikTok alone. The thematic content of the videos, the country of origin of the content... A person's mental health is primarily linked to the information they consume. Especially in our times. Previously, the impact was lesser. But now, the quantity and volume of information, particularly produced by platforms like TikTok, exceed a person's capacity to study, analyze, and make decisions," commented Vitalii Lunyov, an academician of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and associate professor of the Department of General and Medical Psychology at the O.O. Bogomolets National Medical University, to RBC-Ukraine.

According to him, the risks to mental health "lie in the fact that video content can be produced in series that carry certain ideological content or are related to human values."

"For mental health, I see one of the biggest problems in our society shifting towards a narcissistic discourse. Therefore, ideas of endless acquisition of something are constantly imposed: consumerism, materialism, or even programs that encourage you towards constant psychological development, and behavior change... It looks attractive, but in reality, it's like coercion," the expert says.

The psychologist emphasizes that continuous viewing of Reels could lead to a loss of interest in ordinary human life.

At the same time, while psychologists used to work with adolescents, "solving some issues through life problems or parents," now children "feel insecure, worrying if someone doesn't follow them or unfollows them, or if their videos aren't being watched."

"Children now put a high value on their mediacy. It's now difficult to motivate a child to enter a good university because their friends, peers are earning thousands of dollars through social networks... Media technologies are changing the paradigm of life for future decades. Significant influences on mental health also have consequences for physical health," the specialist says.

However, Lunyov emphasizes: all risks relate exclusively to the content consumed by individuals.

"TikTok is an additional tool. Previously, mobile devices were also approached with caution. This is a matter of psychological hygiene - learning to live one's real life, where these additional functions - gadgets, applications - will only be supplementary. That is, neither Facebook, nor TikTok, nor a bicycle, nor a scooter have an impact. The impact comes from how a person uses them," he concluded.

Also, read about the new TikTok app that will compete with Instagram.