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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

TikTok commands the attention of 150 million American users. That's its best defense yet against Biden's threat of a ban.

TikTok commands the attention of 150 million American users. That's its best defense yet against Biden's threat of a ban.

TikTok's popularity could make the threat of a ban difficult to enforce. It's now used by 150 million Americans each month, or 45% of the population.
TikTok officially has 150 million monthly active users in the US, the company confirmed this week. That means any effort to ban it could face stiff resistance after the app has become part of the routine of 45% of the country.

The user figures come as TikTok CEO Shou Chew is set to testify in front of Congress on Thursday. They also come as the Biden Administration has demanded TikTok's Chinese owners divest their US business or risk getting banned entirely from the US.

TikTok's user numbers show just how much the social media app has taken hold. It's still not to the threshold of Facebook, which logs 266 million monthly active users in the US, but it's not far behind. (Facebook parent Meta doesn't break out Instagram's monthly active users in the US.)

As TikTok's CEO Chew put it: "That's almost half the US coming to TikTok to connect, to create, to share, to learn, or just to have some fun." That number also includes about 5 million businesses that use TikTok as a way to reach customers, he said in a TikTok video on Tuesday.

TikTok's popularity is likely why the Biden administration is pushing for a sale, instead of an outright ban, industry watchers previously told Insider.

TikTok is particularly popular with younger generations in the US, said Mark Shmulik, an analyst with Bernstein. "And you can hypothesize that they may skew and vote Democrat a little bit more," he said, which explains the hesitation on a ban from Biden's camp.

As a result, TikTok has become a tool politicians are turning to to reach younger voters, said Darrell West, a senior fellow for the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. That means any action the government takes on it has ramifications for the next election in 2024.

"If Biden ends up banning TikTok, he's kind of shooting himself in the foot in the sense that Democrats really need a big turnout from young people," West said. "And if there's no TikTok it actually becomes harder for the party to reach that audience."

Ultimately, TikTok has amassed a huge user base in the US, and the more users it continues to add, the higher the stakes are for what the government decides to do.
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