TikTok creators are worried about losing their followings as the Trump administration considers banning the app

TikTok creators are worried about losing their followings as the Trump administration considers banning the app
Insider spoke with TikTok users about their reactions to a potential ban in the United States.@matthewyescas3/@chunkysdead/TikTok
  • Both United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump have said that the government is "looking at" banning TikTok in the United States.
  • While it's unclear what a TikTok ban would look like, TikTok users have been reacting to the news.
  • Insider spoke with several TikTokers who had varying reactions to a potential ban.
  • Many TikTokers are worried about losing their followings and communities on the app.
  • Users are telling followers to connect with them on other social media platforms.

On Monday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News that the US government was "certainly looking at" banning TikTok, citing security concerns (TikTok is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance).

President Donald Trump echoed Pompeo's remarks on Tuesday, implying that banning TikTok in the US would be a kind of punitive measure against China for the coronavirus.

While information about any kind of potential ban is muddy at best, TikTokers have been taking to the platform to share their feelings about a potential ban. Many seemed to take the idea of a "ban" in the most extreme sense of the word — TikTok being entirely shut down in the US — prompting people to make contingency plans and reminisce about the good times they've had on the app.



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Insider spoke with several creators about their reactions to Pompeo's claim that the United States government is "looking at" banning TikTok, and what would change for them in the event that they were fully cut off from the app.

TikTok creators, especially those with smaller platforms, are worried about losing their followings

For many creators, TikTok has afforded them an opportunity to connect with other users, grow their online platform, and create content that may not have had a home elsewhere.


"I really like TikTok because I've made a small platform for myself here," Matthew Yescas, who has nearly 5,600 followers and goes by @matthewyescase3 on the app, told Insider. "So when I saw that they were trying to ban TikTok I was so disappointed because I had amassed a pretty decent following and met a lot of online friends."

Other creators echoed the sentiment on the app, posting videos about the people that they had gotten to know and the way that the platform had helped to build a following for other projects.


Tiktok May get banned in the U.S. so I ask that you follow my, check out my other platforms, and share this so I can keep doing what I love ❤️!

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"The concept of TikTok getting banned in the US is a scary thing to me and a lot of other creators I know," Will Mahony, who posts videos to an audience of approximately 1.4 million on his account @wahony, told Insider. "A lot of people's careers are relying almost completely on TikTok… Teenagers, in general, would also be devastated, the vast majority of people I know use TikTok for hours a day for memes, drama, and even politics."

Many are encouraging their followers to connect with them on other social media platforms

In the time since news about the potential ban began to spread on the app, TikTok users were quick to set up contingency plans, thanking their followers and directing them towards their accounts on other social media platforms.


tried to fit in a lot of stuff at once, truly thank you. If tiktok does get banned you know where else to find me. I’ll still be around if it doesn’t?

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Others lamented the potential loss of unique spaces or archives that they had built on the app. In a TikTok video posted on Tuesday, @arbacn, who has 1.8 million followers, spoke about how the account served as "a digital diary of my last year of high school."


TikTok creator @ironno also posted a video speaking about the potential impacts of a ban, and lamenting the potential loss of a platform that's been especially fruitful for BIPOC creators. "TikTok has been a complete game-changer for minorities," she said. "We've been able to connect with each other on such a fast and global scale, learn so many things about other people's cultures, and realize that we have a lot more similarities than differences."


i cannot find the words to explain how important this is..the fact that a SOCIAL MEDIA APP allows us to have a voice is unbelievable to me ##arab ##fyp

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People have varying feelings about the ban, and there are plenty of theories about why it's being talked about now

While many TikTokers appear to be stressed about a potential ban, others felt that the government's priorities should be elsewhere.

"Speaking as a Muslim American, Mike Pompeo can go to hell. He's a racist, Islamophobic scumbag," Zahra, a TikToker whose account @muslimthicc has approximately 2.7 million followers, told Insider, asking that her last name be withheld due to security concerns.

"In regards to his comments about looking into TikTok and security concerns, I think it's absolutely ridiculous that our government is more adamant about banning a video sharing app than it is about banning assault rifles or dealing with much more pressing issues like police brutality or missing indigenous women in our country," she said.

And while some creators lightly poked fun at those who were stressed over the potential ban, theories about the motivation behind a ban have run rampant on the platform. Some hypothesized it was a retaliatory measure after TikTok users and K-pop stans took credit for tanking President Trump's Tulsa, Oklahoma, campaign rally by reserving tickets en masse. Others claimed that it was a measure to silence Gen Z.


The real reason trump wants to ban TikTok in 35 seconds ##dumptrump ##tiktokban ##voteblue ##democrathypehouse ##democrat

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"I feel like the real reason that they're trying to ban the app isn't because of a 'security concern' but because the government doesn't like things that are foreign to them. They don't really have any control over what happens on TikTok," Matthew Yescas told Insider.

TikTok users with followings on other platforms don't seem as concerned about a potential ban

Some of TikTok's biggest names have been quiet about the possibility of the ban. Charli D'Amelio, TikTok's top creator, doesn't appear to have acknowledged the ban on social media and did not return Insider's request for comment. Both Josh Richards and Avani Gregg have posted about a potential TikTok ban on social media but did not return Insider's requests for comment.

Perhaps they're not too concerned. Most of TikTok's top talent have massive followings on other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. In the event of a ban, their fame and status likely won't see a major drop.

Take Will Mahony (@wahony), a TikTok user with over a million followers on the app who told Insider that he "wouldn't be so far gone" in the event of a ban given his followings on both YouTube and Instagram. He also said he was planning on investing more time into his YouTube channel regardless.

"That's not the case for so many creators who base their career off TikTok," he added.


Melissa Ong, who posts to approximately 2.1 million followers on her account @chunkysdead and is the leader of the "Step-chickens cult," told Insider that she was against a ban, but in the event of one, she would move her videos over to YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. In a recently published video, she said that she's focusing on other platforms, saying that she doesn't feel as motivated to post on the app if it's "just going to abort all [her] content."


Reply to @1000followrsnovid If you’d like to see more of my content, I’m @chunkysdead on Insta/YouTube, @MelissaOng69429 on Twitter. ##longelmo2020

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Zahra (@muslimthicc) told Insider that she wasn't sure if she'd continue making content in the event of a TikTok ban in the US. "I'm a senior in college studying computer science and I plan to pursue a career in my field after graduation, so I don't think content creation is a long term plan for me," she said.

Ultimately, many TikTokers simply don't want to lose the community that they've built. While it's possible to move to other platforms, for those who have found a home on TikTok, the experience won't be the same.

"[A ban] would suck for TikTok creators such as myself, as well as for the bajillions of people who come to TikTok every day for the unique entertainment that it provides," Melissa Ong, a.k.a. @chunkysdead, told Insider.

This isn't the first time members of the US government have raised questions about TikTok

Pompeo and Trump's comments come on the heels of India blocking TikTok along with other Chinese apps that the Indian government said posed a security threat.


It's also not the first time anti-TikTok skepticism has arisen in the United States government: Senators like Josh Hawley, one of TikTok's biggest critics, have called the app's ties to China into question. Other lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Tom Cotton, and Sen. Marco Rubio, have called for investigations into TikTok. The app has been banned by a number of United States government agencies.

TikTok said in a November 2019 blog post that its content moderation policies adhere to local laws and guidelines, and that it stores the data of United States app users in the US and Singapore, not China. The company recently told Business Insider that it has "never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked."

Currently, there's no definite information as to whether or not TikTok will be banned in the United States. And, as The Verge's Adi Robertson reported, there's not even clarity on what exactly a "ban" would mean, and any action that would fully cut United States users off from the app's network seems unlikely.