Jun 6, 2024 - Business

TikTok ban fuels anxiety among Georgia entrepreneurs

Animated illustration of the TikTok logo glitching and turning into a no symbol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Some of Georgia's small business owners are speaking out against a federal law that might ban TikTok nationwide.

Why it matters: President Biden signed a bill in April to force TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell its stake in the U.S. version of the app, or else it'll be banned in the country on Jan. 19, 2025.

  • Federal officials say China's government can use TikTok to harvest user data as material for misinformation — and it could spy on citizens by accessing their device's microphones or tracking keystrokes.

Zoom in: Atlanta real estate agent Glennda Baker told Axios her TikTok videos resulted in deals totaling $60 million in yearly revenue. As for data privacy concerns, she believes "the horse is out of the gate" because our information is harvested when we use apps or websites.

  • She says TikTok's impact can't be duplicated on other dominant social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram because those sites typically cater to personal relationships.
  • She also said obtaining brand awareness on those platforms or on X, formerly known as Twitter, required investments that are costly to small businesses.

By the numbers: TikTok's new economic impact report, which was generated based on a survey of businesses and app users, found local businesses' use of the platform for advertising and marketing contributed $750 million to Georgia's GDP in 2023.

  • 300,000 businesses in the state and 5.4 million Georgians actively use TikTok, according to the report.
  • More than 90% of Georgia's small businesses surveyed said they increased sales and sold out products with TikTok.

Threat level: Banning TikTok or forcing a sale could disrupt the U.S. media ecosystem and trigger economic tensions between the U.S. and its rivals, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

State of play: TikTok filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the Biden administration over the new law, alleging it negatively affects free speech among creators and businesses.

  • The AJC reports an Atlanta-based beauty brand owner is also suing the U.S. government, alongside seven other social media creators, to block the law.

What they're saying: Desiree Hill of Crown's Corner Mechanics in Conyers told Marketplace the ban "would be detrimental" to her business because TikTok tripled her income in a year.

The intrigue: Former President Trump and his super PAC also joined TikTok this year, even though he spearheaded the ban initiative as president.

  • Biden's campaign is also on TikTok as both sides try to appeal to young voters.

The bottom line: Marietta audiologist Melissa Wikoff says she built a large audience through TikTok. She fears the ban could impact her business and her donations to the community.

  • "We want to sponsor and support our patients … so when TikTok helps me, it's also helping my community," she said.
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