There has been widespread debate on the ethics of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. Back in 2020, the former US President proposed legislation to ban the app outright in the US. Now, further action is being taken. There are concerns over privacy and cybersecurity, with ByteDance reported to have ties to the Chinese government, and staff in having access to people’s personal data. The app has been banned on government devices across the EU, the UK, US, Canada, and most recently Australia. Lawmakers in the US Congress are even proposing a nationwide ban to prevent outright access to the app. In a congressional hearing, TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew,attempted to quash concerns, "it is our commitment to this committee and all our users that we will keep (TikTok) free from any manipulation by any government." Chew even took to TikTok to warn people of the ban and the reactions to his statement in court are going viral on the platform, turning him into an unexpected heart throb.


“Social media like TikTok is ruining our brains. I honestly think it's stupidly addicting. Ideally, I would go off grid but like every other millennial I crave dopamine hits.” Eoin, 27 via The Love Network

In parallel to the data debate, the other big love issue is how the app algorithm may both exploit and/or harm children and young people. Speaking to the Guardian, Imran Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate said “the algorithm recognises vulnerability and, instead of seeing it as something it should be careful around, it sees it as a potential point of addiction – of helping to maximise time on the platform for that child by serving them up content that might trigger some of the pre-existing concerns.” While there have been product updates to create a safer experience for children and young people, UK privacy watchdog have placed a £12.7 million fine on TikTok due to safety limitations. In the US, the Governer of Utah has passed an age-verification law, the first of its kind, where those under the age of 18 will need parental consent to have a social media account, and parents will have access to it. Other state governments are indicating that they will follow suit.


The two loudest and perhaps most important narratives are, firstly, the people calling for an outright ban, and secondly, people reminding us of the role social media in general plays in our lives and how a ban won’t actually fix it. There is a generational skew - 24% of 18 to 29 year old versus 54% of 50 - 64 year olds support the ban in the US, according to Pew Research. It’s impossible to ignore that the highly-curated algorithm and other internet platforms have a detrimental effect on mental health, isolating young people and dangerous comparison. “There is a lot of body checking on TikTok – a lot of people showing off things about themselves that are maybe unachievable. You see it enough times you are like maybe I should be that way.” - Angelica Faustino, 18, via CNN


TikTok is part of a bigger social media and digital infrastructure deeply embedded in modern life. YouTuber Tiago Forte highlights that “new technology's coming out all the time both hardware and software and online services and no one really teaches us how to use them”. Many people are pointing out that yes, apps like TikTok are problematic, but they aren’t the only ones causing problems. Pro-TikTok groups are organising campaigns to save the platform. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also went to TikTok to share a statement) said "...our first priority should be in protecting your ability to exist without social media companies harvesting and commodifying every single piece of data about you, without you, and without your consent." Meta has had its own data scandal and its platform Instagram is reportedly playing a huge role in young people’s mental health crisis. There are risks with banning social media outright, especially considering it can be a place for many young people to find acceptance in online communities, with evidence pointing to the positive role social media can have for those who are trans or queer. Skincare creator Monique, @skinfiltrator, speaking to the BBC said that TikTok’s black creator programme was the "only social platform where I've really felt that support".


TikTok holds a unique position in culture and for brands, acting as a platform that entertains, offers recommendations, educates people, helps people organise for change, engages young voters and fosters niche communities. Many are asking the question - what does the internet look like without TikTok? Young creators are stressed out about the prospect of a loss of income - 23 year old TikToker Arthur Hill said in an interview - "it would be pretty major and screw up a lot of people's livelihoods and careers. I think that'd be a massive ripple effect as well in terms of other apps. And how Instagram would react and how YouTube would react. I think it would all go a bit wrong."

Looking at what may happen next, it’s a waiting game. In the meantime, TikTok is not slowing down any time soon. New information regarding their content moderation and safety was published on their blog outlining what is next for them. They are continuing to update the platform, like their new keyword insight hub which gives brands insight into trending conversations and identifies keywords that resonate with your audience and industry. Bytedance also recently introduced Lemon8, their alternative to Instagram mixed with Pinterest, in the UK and US - the visual app that has TikTok’s intelligent (and creepy) algorithm is currently topping app download charts.


Futureproof Your Digital Marketing

“The real task for brands is to evaluate if TikTok is what it purports to be; just an entertainment app with western governments ironically behaving like China, banning what they fear? Or is a potential TikTok ban a canary in the coalmine for all social media companies?” Donagh Humphreys, Head of Social and Digital Innovation at Thinkhouse

At THINKHOUSE we’ve watched the unstoppable rise of TikTok as a paid brand channel and key social platform since 2020, using the channel to deliver innovative and impactful campaigns across such brands as RTÉ, Lucozade UK and Goodfellas. What do these current developments mean for marketing and advertising? While we don’t know exactly what will happen next, there are things you can do to safeguard investments in digital marketing, creative, ad-spend, and influencers.

THINKHOUSE’s digital and social media team have created a guide with five clear actions that will help you navigate any changes, which are as follows:
  1. Rethinking your video vertical distribution
  2. Edu-tainment content will work across all platforms
  3. Analyse how popular your content creators really are
  4. Watch out for optics
  5. Prepare for higher cost-per-platform

Read the in depth guide for a breakdown of each of these actions, and what to consider. Reach out to the THINKHOUSE team for additional support via


  • Read the latest THINKHOUSE Social & Digital team update on the Lemon8 social app - ‘5 Things To Know About Lemon8’.
  • In case you missed it - the latest IPCC report is out. Read one of our recent editions of 52INSIGHTS, where we broke down the significant implications of this moment, exploring some of the latest youth responses and new EU greenwashing directive.
  • THINKHOUSE and eFlow, the operator of the barrier-free tolling system on Dublin’s M50 motorway and a provider of electronic tags for use on all toll roads in the Republic of Ireland, have launched ‘Accounts & Accountability,’ eFlow's biggest marketing campaign to date. Read more on our site.