March 22, 2024 8:00am

Tick tock on TikTok

Power Poll members divided on sale of popular app or outright ban

Photo of Chris Vass
Chattanooga, TN Correspondent

For millions and millions of cat video lovers, dance move creators or lip-sync challengers glued to their smartphones, the call for a ban on TikTok seems like gross government overreach and First Amendment infringement. For those who support curtailing the wildly popular video-sharing app, forcing the sale of TikTok or limiting access to the app is a matter of national security.

In a bizarre twist in Washington, D.C., House lawmakers showed broad bipartisanship in their 352-65 vote last week to send legislation to the Senate that could ban TikTok, owned by a China-based ByteDance, in the U.S. if the company does not sell the app.

Almost half of Chattanooga area Power Poll members — 48% — said in this week’s poll they support a ban.

However, 28% said they were not sure about the legislative action, and a 24% said they do not support a ban.

The bill, which pits China hawks against free speech advocates, faces an uncertain future in the Senate, and it’s unclear if a vote will be scheduled.

Just over a third of survey respondents — 35% — think the Senate will follow the House’s lead.

Tellingly, 44% of this week’s poll respondents said the Senate won’t go along (27%) or believe the bill won’t get a vote on the floor (17%).

Almost a quarter — 21% – said they weren’t sure about the issue.

Vince Butler, president of Butler Consulting, noted there is precedent for government action.

“Back in 2021, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill that prevented Huawei and ZTE from receiving new equipment licenses from U.S. regulators,” he wrote. “Two years ago, the FCC barred the sale or import of telecom and video equipment made by China’s Dahua Technology, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Hytera Communications.”

TikTok, he said, is “no different.” The app should be banned if not sold to a different company that is not controlled by China.

Those sentiments were echoed by several Power Pollers, who noted the alarming surveillance and influence threat China poses with an app used by upwards of 150 million people in the U.S.

Zach Wamp, president/owner of Zach Wamp Consulting, highlighted the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee which supports the ban. Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio are in favor of the ban unless owner ByteDance divests.

“That tells me China is using TikTok for espionage,” Wamp wrote. “We are stupid if we let them.”

And frequent Power Poll commenter and Hamilton County Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler highlighted the another concern about the prevalence of TikTok:

“As an adjunct professor of criminal justice at UTC, I ask my students at the beginning of each semester what sources they use for news and current events. The majority of youth that I have surveyed [over] the past several years get their news and information from social media, primarily TikTok.

“Not online newspapers, news sites, or legitimate sources, but social media and late night TV hosts such as Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel,” he wrote.

His concern is not only TikTok's Chinese links, but also the espionage threat or the potential for propagandistic content.

“It is the fact that so many [young people] rely on social media for their news and information,” he said.

Decosimo Corporate Finance senior advisor Nick Decosimo, pointed out that referring to the legislation as a “ban” is a bit misleading.

“At this point, it is simply an effort to remove Chinese control. However, if it becomes a ban, that would certainly be a good thing for the youth of America,” he wrote.

Well, while everyone waits for the senators to do what they are going to do — or not, now is the time to work on snapping that perfect avocado toast or triple caramel macchiato photo — for Instagram.

Onto the other Power Poll issues this week:

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents believe upcoming changes to traffic flow on Frazier Avenue will improve safety.

When asked, “Do you think the reduction in Frazier’s speed limit, combined with either of the two redesign proposals, will improve motorist, pedestrian and cyclist safety?,” 63% said “yes,” while 12% said “no.” A quarter – 25% — said only time will tell.

Put Miller & Martin partner Scott Simmons in the “time will tell” camp.

“I’m not sure why we’re redesigning the traffic patterns on Frazier Avenue,” he wrote. “Yes, the incident that occurred recently was a needless tragedy that took an innocent life. But the driver allegedly was intoxicated; consequently, the traffic/pedestrian patterns had no bearing on the outcome.”

The proposed redesign of the thoroughfare, he surmised, “appears to be an uncorrelated political overreaction that will cause even more unnecessary congestion in the North Shore.”

As several dozen poll respondents indicated, only time will tell.

And finally, Power Poll advice to TVA about what to do with its downtown office complex? Easy: Sell it.

More than half of respondents — 54% — said if they were in charge, they would put the property on the block. Another quarter — 26% — said the buildings should be torn down and another 12% said the office complex should be renovated.

There are plenty of creative options being bandied about for that valuable tract. As with Frazier Avenue, time will tell.

Contact Chris Vass at or

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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