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Some Reno residents want TikTok to stay

Kevin Ashton's TikTok page includes information on his followers and how many accounts he is following. A link to his Youtube page is attached, and his description reads, "Chef, Foodie, Family Man!"
Ember Braun
KUNR Public Radio
Kevin Ashton's TikTok page reached one million followers and hosts his videos on cooking and recipes. Photo of Ashton's account taken on April 22, 2024 in Reno, Nev.

The House passed a bill on April 20 that has the potential to ban the social media app, TikTok, if its China-based owner doesn’t sell within a year. Lawmakers are concerned about national security implications with the platform. But some Reno residents don’t want to lose access to it.

Kevin Ashton is a chef for a sorority house in Reno. During COVID, he would post cooking videos on TikTok.

“I was home and I had to do something and I wanted to cook, I needed an outlet. I immediately thought, ‘I want to do TikTok, I don’t want to just watch them, I wanna make some videos.’”

The platform is great for creating and connecting with others, he said. In March, he reached one million followers. This was a goal he had been working toward for four years.

“I always say it started out as beer money and it turned into career money,” he said.

Another creator that uses the app is Christine Almendras. She has two separate accounts: one is for her business, Femme Flora Designs.

“You know, you see the advice from other business owners, you just want to put yourself out there as much as possible on every single social media app if you can.”

Christine Almendras poses behind her table for her business. On the table are different items for sale and in the from is a banner that reads, Femme Flora Designs.
Photo courtesy of Christine Almendras
Christine Almendras poses behind her table for her business, Femme Flora Designs.

The other features her crochet work and sometimes personal, lifestyle videos.

“I’ve met so many great friends and it has helped me reach a wider audience in terms of outside of Reno. I have seen the benefits of TikTok and I think it would be really sad if it went away,” she said.

The platform is owned by ByteDance, a China-based company. Some lawmakers have said the Chinese government could demand access to American users' data.

Three of Nevada’s four House Reps. voted yes on the bill: Democrats Susie Lee and Dina Titus, as well as Republican Mark Amodei.

The only Nevada Congressman that voted no on was Democrat Steven Horsford, who represents the 4th Congressional District.

On his own TikTok account, he explained how small businesses rely on the app and said all social media should have security protections.

“In Nevada alone, more than 28,000 small businesses use TikTok in order to promote their business, their products,” he said.

“We also have to do more to hold social media platforms accountable related to their algorithms, and the misinformation and disinformation in any election,” he said.

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford speaks on his own TikTok account, with captions at the bottom of the screen and a banner at the top that reads, "I voted No on a TikTok Ban."
Screenshot captured by Ember Braun
KUNR Public Radio
Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford speaks on his own TikTok account, explaining his reasoning for his vote. Screenshot taken April 22, 2024 in Reno, Nev.

As far as national security and access to his data, Ashton said he has never really had those worries.

“And I think, like a lot of people were just like, just leave our TikTok alone.”

Almendras shared a similar view.

“I do take cyber security very seriously when it comes to credit card information and your personal info, but I’m also like, what is TikTok doing that the other social media apps are not already,” she said.

Many University of Nevada, Reno students use the app as well. Jane Carbajal said she would rely on Instagram if TikTok is banned.

“I would have to rely on Instagram because it’s also a big platform where people share a lot of news. But I think it’s very troubling to know that the government can take that away from us, because I feel like news should be spread,” she said.

Student Noah Huerta said a ban would not affect his life.

“I try not to spend too much time on [TikTok],” he said.

Nevada’s two senators, Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, have not indicated how they would vote when the legislation makes it to the Senate.

KUNR’s Ember Braun is a student at the Reynolds School of Journalism.

Ember Braun is a student reporter for KUNR. She is studying journalism at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno with an emphasis in broadcasting and a minor in English literature.