A ban on TikTok might not change anything over the long term in terms of bigger, broader video consumption as the announcement underscores how internet companies are starting to prioritize developing long-term approaches to protect their customers from platform-contaminated content.
Today, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri made a strong commitment to users’ safety when announcing the ban on viral TikTok — a video creation platform that has accumulated more than 1 billion monthly users, has seen 40 billion stream views and has a growing economy. TikTok was linked with gaming spam, creating the risk of Instagram’s long-term reach being compromised as users were turned off by the site’s prevalence of unseemly, spammy and unsafe content. For instance, TikTok’s enormous reach meant all of its music videos were likely shared by teenagers who would play music videos on a TV, so children have likely gone there to hear music.
Mosseri’s announcement provides a good example of why internet companies are starting to prioritize developing long-term, industry-wide solutions to provide security and stable platforms for users. Some will argue that banning all mobile apps outright, a drastic approach to fighting platforms that could be hurting the internet economy. That’s simply not a realistic option as the people running most of the companies that make the platform that make you feel safer to share are the very ones that built it. That’s not to say that there isn’t a risk to an internet media ecosystem being split, especially if some people prioritize the privacy and safety of their own content above sharing videos that might make your grandma uncomfortable.
Because TikTok is only available on mobile, the ban will impact users outside of the United States because the service doesn’t require internet access to make videos. Unlike Instagram and the other major platforms we are seeing a steady stream of great videos on TikTok, the site has also become the stomping ground for trolls.
The lesson here is don’t take too long to consider any move that has a short-term benefit for companies but has a long-term cost. If Instagram or another platform bans TikTok, it’s not clear they will effectively shift users to YouTube, Facebook or another new, credible competitor. There is a fear that the video bubble could burst.