Weekly Column: The Question of TikTok

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the future of TikTok as a social media and entertainment platform in America with concerns of privacy issues.

You can read the full column below.


The question of TikTok’s existence in America has been questioned since the application was introduced to people as a video-based social media application. TikTok is in some way the permanent video version of Shapchat. TikTok, however, has grown far more popular as a platform and for the creation of entertainment content.

TikTok’s existence in the United States has been called into question by lawmakers because the platform’s owner, ByteDance, is a Chinese-owned company that has either collected and/or seeks to collect data about American citizens. Data that is not only subject to security protocols from the United States government, but also state laws like California’s Consumer Privacy Act. Privacy laws tend to be very restrictive on the collecting, buying, and selling of personal information (e.g., data) about people. If privacy laws are broken by a company or person, there also tends to be serious financial consequences.

The use of data and analytics is probably the most important change in the business world during the last twenty years. Data is used by nearly every company, large or small, to make important and even less important decisions about the business. Famously, the film Moneyball displayed the importance of data analytics to make player selections while drafting, trading, and signing free agents to formulate a roster. Data is essentially what drives the advertising market as data about people, their preferences, application uses, where they live, what they like, is used to sell more stuff. “Cookies” might be the best example of the phenomenon when someone searches something on the internet and then advertisements begin to fill that person’s social media pages and email inboxes.

The State of Montana has taken the novel and bold approach to ban the TikTok application from being downloaded on devices beginning in 2024. However, existing users in Montana will be able to continue using the application. The approach is one that takes somewhat of a middle ground on the issue of banning TikTok outright since existing users will be able to continue using the application. TikTok will not be able to operate as a business in the state, but again the application and use of it will be available if downloaded to a device before January 1, 2024.

Congress and other state legislatures have considered similar legislation, from outright bans to approval boards for using foreign technology, none of which have gotten to a final vote stage. There remains several issues for consideration. First, how many more individual states will pass similar legislation to Montana’s? Second, litigation by TikTok and affiliated businesses harmed by the ban will certainly ensue with two main questions: (1) is banning censorship or protection, or both, and (2) what evidence exists proving that American citizen data has been shared and for nefarious purposes? Lastly, will Chinese authorities move to approve the sharing or technology and/or change the ownership structure to keep the business going? All important questions that will be answered in the coming weeks.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.   

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.