Meta's Reels a winner in any TikTok ban

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 15 March 2024
Solen Feyissa via Unsplash.

A ban on TikTok in the US, on the grounds of national security, would hand an effective monopoly to Meta’s short-form video product Reels, according to analysts.

The US government has told ByteDance, the Chinese-based owner of TikTok, to sell the social media app to a company based outside China.

If it doesn't, the US will ban the app from appearing on Apple and Google’s app stores in the country, and stop internet service providers from accessing it.

A bill has passed the US House of Representatives, but has yet to pass the Senate. If it does, the president can then decide whether or not to sign it into law. 

"Absent of TikTok, users will flock to Reels, period — leaving just YouTube Shorts as its sole competitor," said Mike Proulx, VP and research director at global consultancy Forrester.

"That means Meta is the likely beneficiary of TikTok’s ad revenue in a TikTok-less world, as well.”

Forrester’s Youth Survey 2023 saw an 11-point year-over-year increase in Instagram Reels usage, with nearly a third (30%) of US teens now using Reels at least weekly.

More than 170 million people use TikTok, 8.5 million of them in Australia.

Forrester data shows that 67% of US B2C marketing decision-makers plan to increase investment in TikTok this year.

Uri Gal, professor of business information systems at the University of Sydney, said the scope of data surveillance by TikTok may be even more expansive than other social media apps.

“There have been multiple indications of the links between TikTok, its parent company ByteDance and the Chinese government," Gal wrote in 2022. 

“Given its large and young Australian user base, it is quite likely that our country’s future prime minister and cabinet members are being surveilled and profiled by China. Surely, if nothing else, this should give us reason to pause and think whether the app should be used in Australia.”

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said Australia will make its own decision and "take advice [on what to do] but we have no plans".

He told ABC Radio that you need to have an argument fought rather than just automatically ban things.

"TikTok isn't compulsory, by the way," Albanese said.

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