For many people, the term TikTok is the sound that a clock makes. However, for millions of individuals around the world TikTok is the name of a social media platform that has been embraced by the masses. There has been some concern about the link of the Chinese government to TikTok. Many worry that China is using TikTok as a way of gathering information about people that can be used for various purposes in the future.
As a result, several countries, most prominently the United States, are considering an all out ban on TikTok. The response from the public has been overwhelmingly negative. People love uploading videos to TikTok. Many individuals have created a massive following that is garnering them tens of thousands of dollars a month.
In order to get around the ban on TikTok, some people have started to use a VPN. A VPN is an online service that creates an encrypted tunnel to a server in a country that the user selects. As a result, it appears like a user is trying to access a site from the country that the server is in.
VPNs are already being used around the world to get around Geo restrictions. For example, when a person travels and wants to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu but the service is restricted in the country they are visiting, they can use a VPN to get that access back. Many are expecting the same thing to happen if these multiple countries go through with their ban on TikTok.
How the TikTok Ban Is Affecting VPN Usage
VPN services have always been popular not only because they are able to protect your online privacy, but because some reputable VPN services are able to successfully circumnavigate Geo restrictions.
ExpressVPN is one of the premier paid VPN services. Their popularity stems from the number of servers they have and the number of countries they service. Right now, ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in more than 94 countries. This means that users can access the Internet as if they were in 94 countries around the globe.
ExpressVPN is the go to for circumnavigating Geo restrictions. When India adopted a ban on TikTok, ExpressVPN saw a 22 percent increase in web traffic. The same numbers were seen in other countries that have been contemplating a similar ban. In the United States, there was a 10 percent increase when the president floated the idea of the ban. Similar numbers were seen in countries like Australia.
VPNs Don’t Solve Every Problem
TikTok users may feel comforted when thinking that a VPN will allow them to get access to the site they cherish. Although VPNs have been popular for some time for their ability to go around Geo restrictions, they are not the cure-all and be-all.
In relatively free countries like the United States, Australia, or Great Britain, it is easy to access a VPN. It is just a matter of going to your app store and downloading it. However, in more repressive countries governments make it difficult for the average individual to get access to or use a VPN. In fact, in some countries using a VPN can result in jail time and fines.
Something else to consider when discussing the proposed ban on TikTok is that there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the ban will be carried out. It might require users to do a lot more than just flip on a VPN.
Undoubtedly, in countries where services like TikTok are banned, government approved alternative services will pop up. But their services usually don’t have the same content, they don’t have the same user experience, and they are just not as enjoyable as the service that is banned.
Why Do Countries Ban Websites?
For Internet users in the United States, the idea of a site being banned by the government is revolutionary. The United States prides itself on being the leader when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This could be part of the reason why many in the United States are having such a vitriol reaction to this proposed ban.
However, the reality is that for many countries around the world, banning sites that do not coincide with the government’s view of the world or that present the government in a bad light is commonplace. This type of ban is associated with repressive regimes, like China, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan.
In these countries, the use of VPNs is common. People turn to VPNs not solely as a way to get entertainment but as a way to get access to news reports about their own country or about the world that they would otherwise not have access to.
The United States wants to ban TikTok because of market and national security concerns. However, some have argued that, at least on the surface, TikTok does not appear to pose a national security risk. There are no classified documents, intelligent systems, or weapons that are being exposed.
However, the US government is arguing that TikTok poses a risk to data security and data privacy. In the United States there are over 100 million TikTok users. And there are many million more all around the world. TikTok collects data on its users. And the worry is that the Chinese government might be able to take the data it gathers and then leverage that data for espionage or blackmail in the future. There is also concern that it is a tool that is being used to spread misinformation.
However, as with all things government-related, there are probably broader forces at play. The ISIS government and China have had a back and forth when it comes to technology. The United States has taken action against some tech firms in China, and China has responded in kind. One of the biggest frustrations the US government has is that Chinese tech industries operate in the United States. However, many US tech companies are not able to freely operate in China.
The proposed TikTok ban in the United States is shining a light on the impact geo-political and geo-economical competition plays in individual firms operating on the world scene. It is clear that it is almost impossible for an individual firm to protect itself from wider geo-political conflicts.
It will be interesting to see how the TikTok ban plays out. What is sure is that if it does happen, VPNs are going to continue to grow in popularity as people take steps to get access to the content they enjoy.