Is Australia edging closer to a TikTok ban?

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The House of Representatives in the United States passed legislation today that would effectively ban TikTok in that country. But what could this mean for the generation of young Australians who have grown up on a steady stream of content on the social media platform?

Tackling cybersecurity concerns

Lisa Plaggemier is the Executive Director of the US-based not-for-profit National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) and says TikTok, owned by ByteDance, presents “significant cybersecurity concerns for the United States, primarily due to the potential exploitation of its vast user base and the Chinese company’s access to user data”.

“Beyond the immediate privacy implications, there are fears that TikTok could be leveraged as a tool for misinformation campaigns and data collection by foreign actors, particularly the Chinese government. The scale of TikTok’s user engagement, combined with China’s track record of aggressive cyber activities, raises the spectre of sophisticated cyber threats targeting American users, including surveillance, data breaches, and manipulation of online discourse,” she says.

“Moreover, TikTok’s popularity among both adults and children amplifies the potential impact of these cyber threats, as sensitive personal information could be compromised, and disinformation campaigns could spread rapidly.”

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She says the platform’s interactive nature and extensive reach make it an attractive target for malicious actors “seeking to undermine national security or advance foreign interests”.

“As such, policymakers face the critical task of balancing the benefits of information sharing and social connectivity with the imperative to protect citizens from cyber vulnerabilities inherent in platforms like TikTok. Continued investment in cybersecurity infrastructure and regulations is essential to mitigate these risks and uphold the integrity of digital ecosystems in an increasingly interconnected world.”

Management of misinformation

Also in the US, CEO of, James Mawhinney, says a ban on the platform could “disrupt the dissemination of false or misleading information to its vast user base, potentially mitigating the harmful effects of viral misinformation campaigns”.

“However, it’s crucial to recognise that the issues of disinformation and online manipulation are not confined to TikTok alone,” Mr Mawhinney says.

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“Other platforms, including Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube, have grappled with similar challenges, highlighting the need for comprehensive approaches to combatting misinformation across the digital landscape.”

What will fill the hole left in the social media landscape?

If the US does implement a nation-wide ban on TikTok, he says it could have ripple effects across the broader social media ecosystem.

“With TikTok’s absence, users may flock to alternative platforms in search of similar content experiences, potentially amplifying the user base of competing apps,” he says.

“This influx of users could reshape the dynamics of the social media landscape, influencing trends in content creation, user engagement, and platform competition. Additionally, the ban could prompt other social media companies to reevaluate their own data security practices and ties to foreign entities, as scrutiny over tech regulation intensifies.”

While Australia will be watching the US decision-makers carefully, with many concerned it is a Trojan horse for a secret Chinese propaganda and surveillance machine, the TikTok boom continues – at 1.2 billion-plus global users and a generation of young people who invest hours into watching its every (dance) move – the impact of what will happen if it leaves the social media landscape is something to wait for and watch.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]