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POLITICO: Donald Trump has joined TikTok, a major blow for the app criticized by Washington for its alleged ties to China

  • June 2, 2024
  • 8 Min
  • 10

On Saturday evening, the former president posted a splashy launch video to a verified account, @realDonaldTrump, showing Trump greeting fans at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight he attended in Newark, New Jersey.

“The president is now on TikTok,” UFC CEO Dana White said, introducing Trump in the video.

“It’s my honor,” Trump responded, as Kid Rock’s “American Bad Ass” played in the background.

Trump’s decision to join TikTok is aimed at reaching potential voters — particularly younger ones — as the November election approaches. It comes as the viral video app faces a potential ban in the United States if it does not divest from its Chinese owner ByteDance.

“The campaign is playing all fields,” said a Trump campaign adviser, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “Being able to do outreach across multiple platforms and outlets is important and this is just one of the many ways we will reach voters. TikTok is aimed at a younger audience.

Trump joining TikTok is another victory for the struggling app, which President Joe Biden’s campaign joined in February. It’s a sign that both campaigns see TikTok, with its 170 million users in the United States, as a messaging tool worth pursuing, regardless of the controversy surrounding the app.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., started using the app last week. He posted from the inauguration of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and behind the scenes in the holding room of the Manhattan courtroom where his father’s criminal case — where he was convicted on 34 counts – was judged.

The app is particularly attractive to the Trump campaign given that there is a two-to-one ratio of pro-Trump to pro-Biden content on the app, said a TikTok executive who obtained the anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The ratio was first reported by Puck News.

TikTok is fighting for its existence in court, after Biden signed a law in April forcing its owner ByteDance to sell it within a year or face a ban on U.S. app stores.

Trump hasn’t always been a supporter of TikTok. During his presidency, he attempted to ban the app from the U.S. market on national security grounds — an attempt ultimately blocked in federal courts.

But Trump recently changed his mind, opposing the TikTok legislation signed by Biden. He said ByteDance still posed a national security threat, but a potential ban would anger young Americans and help Meta, the owner of Facebook, which suspended it from its platform for two years following the Capitol riot in 2021.

“There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad with TikTok,” Trump said earlier this year on CNBC. “But what I don’t like is that without TikTok, we can make Facebook bigger and I consider Facebook the enemy of the people, just like many media outlets. »

Trump’s super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., recently joined TikTok, and the former president could attract a huge base of MAGA supporters to the app from his own Truth Social platform, where he has some 7 million followers. followers.

Some of Trump’s top former advisers and allies have defended TikTok on Capitol Hill, including former Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on behalf of the Club for Growth and David Urban, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and registered lobbyist for ByteDance .

Steve Bannon, a former Trump campaign strategist and host of the “War Room” podcast, accused Trump of being influenced in his change in his position on TikTok by billionaire investor and Club for Growth donor Jeff Yass, who holds a 15% stake in ByteDance. Bannon wrote on social media: “Simple: Yass Coin.” Trump said that when he met with Yass, they did not talk about the app.

While Trump’s campaign came later to TikTok than Biden’s, the former president used Biden’s position on the app to hammer him – accusing Biden of potentially banning the popular platform.

“Just so everyone knows, especially young people, Crooked Joe Biden is responsible for banning TikTok,” Trump said on Truth Social in May. “He’s the one pushing for closure, and doing it to help his Facebook friends become richer and more dominant, and able to continue fighting, perhaps illegally, the Republican Party. »

Source: Politico