JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City-based TikTok creator Austin Jenkins, @inspector_aj, described watching federal lawmakers consider a ban of the platform as “nail biting.”
Jenkins went viral on the platform in June 2020, and since then he’s amassed 1.8 million followers on the app and earns 60% of his overall income by posting. But with national leaders again threatening to ban the app, it’s a revenue stream that could soon disappear.
Lawmakers’ concerns about the app are rooted in its relationship with Chinese-based parent company Byte Dance and connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
In Nashville, lawmakers stopped short of a total ban. However, the General Assembly passed legislation restricting access to all Chinese-based social media on state college and university networks.
Bristol Sen. Jon Lundberg sponsored the legislation which he said aims to protect research from being stolen.
He likened allowing foreign-based apps to connect to university Wi-Fi to sharing your home internet password with a neighbor.
“If you can get into my Wi-Fi, you can get into my computer,” said Lundberg.
Jenkins said he understands banning the platform from government devices, but he thinks restricting America’s 150 million TikTok users from accessing the app is a step too far.
“If you ban the app, you’re really limiting freedom of speech for us, literally a third of the entire United States,” said Jenkins.
TikTok CEO Shou Chew told the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday the platform is working on a plan to bring all U.S.-generated user data to servers on American soil, run by Texas-based Oracle.
Tennessee’s partial ban of TikTok will go into effect as soon as Gov. Bill Lee signs the legislation.