It’s the latest move in the feud between the president and Gen Z users on the video sharing platform
In the latest move in the feud between Donald Trump and a cohort of teenagers on TikTok, the president has started running online ads urging his followers to support his proposed ban on the video sharing app.
First pointed out by New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz, the anti-TikTok ads appeared on Trump’s official Facebook and Instagram pages, and warn supporters that “TikTok is spying on you”. The messaging also encourages fans to “sign the petition now to ban TikTok”, though the click-through link actually goes to a survey where you answer “yes” or “no” to the question of banning TikTok, before inputting your details to be added to Trump’s mailing list.
Trump’s ads assert that TikTok was “caught red handed monitoring what is on your phone’s clipboard”. Though this is true – the app has since said it will remove the feature, which it calls an “anti-spam” measure – it’s also something done by a number of other apps, including Reddit and LinkedIn.
It’s likely Trump is targeting TikTok because of a wave of users mobilising on the app to sabotage his campaign rallies, app, and social media accounts. The feud began when TikTok users galvanised to reserve thousands of seats at the president’s Tulsa rally – his first event since the coronavirus pandemic took hold – which they then left empty, embarrassing Trump, whose team had gloated that one million people had registered for tickets (in the end, just over 6,000 turned up).
TikTok users – once again assisted by K-pop stans – then organised to mass report Trump’s Twitter and Instagram accounts at the same time, in an attempt to get him blocked from the platforms. Social media users subsequently plotted to ruin another rally, before flocking to the App Store to flood Trump’s campaign app with negative reviews.
While Trump’s hatred for TikTok arguably stems from its user-base, he may have a point when it comes to privacy concerns in relation to the app. Earlier this month, hacktivist collective Anonymous described TikTok as “malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation”, and urged people to delete the app. Anonymous’ warning came just days after it was announced that India is banning 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing national security concerns.
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, which has been scrutinised by the US government in recent years over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The app has faced criticism from its users for censoring certain content, including videos by Black creators, those who criticise China, and users deemed “ugly, poor, or disabled”.