Concerns that the social media app TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, could pose a threat to the United States’ national security—via compromised user data—have intensified as the app has grown more ubiquitous. In January, Senator Josh Hawley (Republican of Missouri) introduced a bill that would ban US devices from downloading TikTok, and two months later, Senators Mark Warner (Democrat of Virginia) and John Thune (Republican of South Dakota) introduced a different bill that would allow the commerce secretary to ban any foreign-owned “information and communications technology products” deemed to be a security threat. What would a nationwide ban on the app mean for innovation and for the rest of the tech industry? To find out, Chicago Booth’s Kent A. Clark Center for Global Markets asked its panel of US economic experts to weigh in.

Aaron Edlin, University of California at Berkeley
“Not everything people use is good for them or for society. Much social media is addictive, distracting, and lowers attention spans.”
Response: Strongly disagree

Jonathan Levin, Stanford
“It would have geopolitical consequences, might chill certain types of investment, and would raise concerns about the government targeting individual companies. But US innovation is a broad category to measurably impact.” 
Response: Disagree

Larry Samuelson, Yale
“Competitors or new innovations are likely to fill the void.”
Response: Disagree

Daron Acemoglu, MIT
“Yes, unless they are also regulated—and this is one reason regulations that apply to all social media companies are better than just blocking TikTok.”
Response: Agree

Anil K Kashyap, Chicago Booth
“You have to also make an assumption about whether and how China might retaliate in a way that could swamp the direct effect of reducing competition.”
Response: Uncertain

Eric Maskin, Harvard
“TikTok seems to be taking quite a bit of business away from US social media. A ban would give the American companies a chance to catch up.”
Response: Agree

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