As the back-and-forth over a potential TikTok ban drags on, the best place to escape the daily news briefs might just be the social video app itself, where it’s largely business as usual for the creators who populate the platform.
Though TikTok continues to battle the Trump Administration’s ban in court and owner ByteDance works to hammer out a deal with Oracle that will meet government approval in both the U.S. and China, TikTokers have been busy transitioning to fall with #PumpkinSeason posts and ghost photoshoots featuring oversized white sheets.
That’s not to say creators aren’t invested in the long-term stability of the platform. In fact, for some, TikTok has become central to their budding careers, from helping them pay for college to exposing them to large audiences. But several tell THR they are remaining sanguine as the await official word about TikTok’s U.S. future.
“At first it kind of made me nervous. I was like, ‘oh my god, I have 3 million followers on this platform and I don’t want to lose them,” acknowledges James Henry, a comedian trying to break into Hollywood. “But at the same time, I also realized that they were going to be okay.”
Since early August, when President Donald Trump first announced his intention to ban TikTok unless Beijing-based ByteDance sold the U.S. business, TikTok executives have been working hard to reassure its nearly 100 million monthly active U.S. users that the app is sticking around. Interim CEO Vanessa Pappas regularly shares updates with creators on Twitter and via the TikTok blog.
In a Sept. 20 post, she wrote that the company was “just getting started” and outlined ByteDance’s proposed plan to partner with Oracle and Walmart to create a new, U.S.-headquartered company called TikTok Global. “This is just the beginning for TikTok, and we’re so excited to be with you in this journey for the long run,” she added.
Several TikTokers say those updates, along with regular check-ins from their creator managers at the company, have helped allay their fears about a ban. “They’ve reassured us that they’re here to stay,” says musician Nick Tangorra, who has 1.2 million followers on the app, for which he has served as an ambassador. “It would be totally normal and natural to expect silence and we’ve received the complete opposite.”
The future of TikTok is far from certain, however. Over the weekend, Trump said he blessed ByteDance’s proposal. But after ByteDance and Oracle released conflicting statements about TikTok’s ownership structure, Trump said he would not support a deal in which the Chinese internet giant remained a shareholder. Meanwhile, two state-run publications in China have slammed the proposal, casting serious doubt on whether that government — which implemented export restrictions last month to prevent the sale of TikTok’s algorithm — would approve the current arrangement.
ByteDance has been granted a one-week extension to finalize a deal. If, by Sept. 27, no proposal has been approved, the Commerce Department will seek to prevent new downloads of the app in the U.S.
TikTok has said that a ban would be disastrous for the community it has built in the U.S., where it has operated since acquiring and merging with competitor Musical.ly in 2018. It estimates it would permanently lose up to 50 percent of its daily active users during a two-month ban and up to 90 percent of those users during a six-month ban. Already, usage appears to have waned as the threat of a shutdown continues. According to third-party measurement firm Sensor Tower, TikTok installs dropped 11 percent last weekend compared with the same period a week earlier. From Friday, Sept. 18 to Sunday, Sept. 20, it had nearly 700,000 installs. For comparison, TikTok has said it was adding more than 420,000 daily U.S. users each day before talk of a ban began in July.
Several TikTok competitors have appeared in the last two months, and many creators have been preparing for a potential ban by making sure they have presences on those services as well as other established platforms like Instagram and YouTube. But they remain loyal to TikTok.
Henry, a Los Angeles-based creator who joined Musical.ly after the shutdown of Vine and has stuck with the app through these last few years, says the ban prompted him to bolster his YouTube channel, nearly 11,000 subscribers. But he still considers TikTok, which has led to inbound interest from TV producers and casting directors, to be his primary platform. “I’ve been able to really lock into a global audience, which is huge,” he says, explaining his affinity for the app. “One of my biggest demographics is actually in Cambodia. I really love to be able to reach so many different people.”
Makayla Did, who hosts the platform’s Black Voices Live conversation series, notes, “TikTok feels like home.”
Some creators have been using their platforms to speak out about the latest TikTok updates. Over the summer, when the threat of a shutdown was still fresh, hashtags like #SaveTikTok and #TikTokBan became popular. When news broke that ByteDance had selected Oracle as its technology partner, creators used the app to express both support for and concern about the potential deal.
Others have gotten even more active in the fight to keep TikTok operating in the U.S. Cosette Rinab is one of three TikTokers who filed a Sept. 18 lawsuit against Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross arguing that a ban would limit their access to their growing audiences on the platform and prohibit “a substantial amount of constitutionally protected expression and speech.”
Rinab, a model and actress who posts mostly fashion content for her 2.3 million TikTok followers, tells THR that the app has led to brand deals and business opportunities that help her earn enough — as much as $12,000 per month — to cover her living expenses and other costs while she studies at USC. “TikTok has really opened so many doors for me and I’m so thankful for that,” she says.
Rinab explains that she was compelled to join fellow creators Douglas Marland and Alec Chambers in the lawsuit because she wanted to be a voice for creators who depend on TikTok to reach an audience and earn an income. “I’m here to stand up for creators,” she says. “I’m here for us to get through this together and come out of this stronger.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.