TikTok filing: US ban would cripple user numbers
- TikTok on Sunday won a crucial court case stopping it from being immediately booted off US app stores.
- It’s a temporary reprieve, and company still faces future legal arguments ahead of a slated ban on November 12.
- Unsealed data shows why the reprieve was crucial — TikTok argued that Trump’s threats to ban the app had already dented its active user numbers.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
TikTok triumphed in a late-night judgment putting a stop to a US government ban on its app overnight in an extraordinary Sunday hearing in a Washington DC court, but it has been bruised by its battle with Trump.
The app was due to disappear from app stores on September 27 thanks to an order by the US Commerce Department, until district judge Carl Nichols decided otherwise. The judge’s legal opinion will be released later on Monday, but in the hearing he seemed to express skepticism that the US government had followed due process.
However, the victory for TikTok is a small one, and only stays the app’s potential execution: Further hearings are expected in the case.
Documents filed in the case to justify why the judge shouldn’t allow the app store ban to go ahead show just how damaging Donald Trump’s fixation on TikTok has been.
Before July 1, when Donald Trump began mooting a potential ban for TikTok, the app was added 424,000 new users in the United States every single day. “Eliminating this influx of new U.S. users would cripple our growth and immediately cut into our market share,” said TikTok’s US chief, Vanessa Pappas, in a submission to the court.
That growth was counteracted when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Donald Trump was seriously considering banning the app, according to TikTok. On the day this was announced, TikTok said it saw “a significant drop in our user base.” More than 500,000 daily active users disappeared.
TikTok’s own modelling, based on a previous ban in India in 2019 — different to the more permanent ban in the country which came into force in late June 2020 — indicates that the app would lose up to half its daily active users in the United States if TikTok were banned for two months.
If it were banned for six months, TikTok said between 80 and 90% of users would not return to the app.
The ban wouldn’t just have an impact on US users, though. Sworn testimony from Pappas included an indication of just how important American TikTok creators are to the global ecosystem: Content from the United States can make up as much as 60% of the content shown to users in countries around the world.
“Banning TikTok in the United States will result in a massive decrease in content available globally, which will decrease business and impact both our new users and core user base worldwide,” said Pappas.
The company also claimed its travails have made it difficult to attract new staff.
Despite continuing on a hiring spree, including hundreds more US staff as Business Insider has previously reported, attracting the right talent has proven difficult.
Since July 1, TikTok claims 52 job candidates have declined offers of work with ByteDance and TikTok “specifically due to the perceived uncertainty caused by the government’s investigation of and threats against TikTok,” said Pappas.
It’s something existing employees have also worried about, with one taking legal action to guarantee he would continue getting paid.