What happens when life gives you lemons? You make lemonade! Or in Bytedance’s case, Lemon8. Bytedance is the parent company of the mega-popular entertainment app, TikTok, with 1.35 billion users, and 150 million US-based users. However, TikTok’s fate in the U.S. hangs in the balance, amid cybersecurity concerns and rising tensions between the U.S. and China. The DATA Act could ban TikTok in the U.S. for good, and the app is already blocked on all government-issued devices.
Lemon8 is a new app, created by Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company that has the functionality of TikTok, with the photo-sharing capabilities of Instagram, and the aesthetics of Pinterest. Lemon8’s audience will be Gen-Z and is attempting to focus on fitness, lifestyle, beauty, health, and travel. Furthermore, several TikTok creators have created TikToks urging their audience to check out the platform.
Despite Lemon8’s inception in 2020, it is just now gaining traction in the United States. Lemon8 has been recruiting both creators for the platform and posting job listings for Lemon8 ’s corporate headquarters, in New York. (It is important to note that while both Lemon8 and TikTok are headquartered in the U.S., their parent company, Bytedance, is located in Bejing.) If TikTok is banned, U.S. lawmakers may not be able to keep up with the new apps emerging from Bytedance. However, lawmakers could broaden the bill to remove and block any apps created by Bytedance because of their ties to the Chinese media.
As of late, an effort to ban TikTok has hit some roadblocks. When the DATA Act failed to gain traction, lawmakers decided to try and push a Senate vote on the RESTRICT Act. The RESTRICT Act (the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act) is a broader and ironically, a less restrictive act than the DATA Act and would grant lawmakers the ability to prohibit or ban any apps created by, or with ties to the Russian, North Korean, and Chinese governments, “when necessary”. Both sides of the political spectrum have been openly concerned about TikTok when it comes to cybersecurity.
Conversely, both sides have also been against Acts like DATA and RESTRICT, with conservative senators such as Rand Paul worried that these bills could infringe on the first amendment right to free speech and liberal House of Representative member Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, speaking out in favor of TikTok, she feels that both Acts don’t address the root of the issue. “The discussion doesn’t address the core of the issue, which is the fact that major social media companies are allowed to collect troves of people’s personal data.” She also brought up that the U.S. has never banned a social media app from operating within its borders before and that t Congress hasn’t received a classified briefing on potential risks even though that’s protocol when it comes to national security issues.
Additionally, the U.S. is one of the only developed nations in the world without privacy protection laws, and instead of banning specific apps from operating the U.S. should create better privacy protection laws. Rep. Jamaal Bowman has voiced similar concerns and has expressed his concern that any move to ban TikTok would alienate young voters.
The threat to ban TikTok isn’t new; its spanned three years and two presidential administrations. To justify the ban, the government would have to prove that privacy and security concerns cannot be addressed n a broader way. “Restricting access to a speech platform that is used by millions of Americans every day would set a dangerous precedent for regulating our digital public sphere more broadly,” According to Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Overall, a TikTok ban is likely not on the horizon, but Bytedance already has a backup plan, just in case.