Teens, Trump, and Tiktok

In recent months, the Trump administration has targeted popular social media platforms created by Chinese app developers on the basis of the spread of misinformation (Pixabay).

*Staff Writer Sage Lamott takes a liberal perspective on the actions of the Trump administration.

By SAGE LAMOTT
Staff Writer

By now, the Trump TikTok controversy has become a commonly discussed topic in chat rooms and households around the United States. The bigger question teenagers are posing is why? Why target this specific company and yet continue to ignore Facebook’s spreading of misinformation, largely propagated by his own supporters? Trump’s answer is that it ensures national security but we all know that’s not the case. Trump’s distaste for the app stems from the “Tulsa Takeover”. 

On June 20, 2020, the Trump campaign was due to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma which staffers boasted was going to be attended by over one million people, even including an overflow room in case of excess patrons. When the day came, the actual stadium barely reached half capacity and onlookers were left wondering why. 

A self-labeled “TikTok Campaign” began on the app where teenage participants scheduled seats to give the Trump campaign the impression that they had an influx of supporters that would pour into their event on June 20th. The administration continues to claim that their concerns centered around TikTok are based on the best interests of the nation, despite little to no actual research being done by them to back up their claim that the app is dangerous. So are his concerns directed at national security or his own image? 

In his official orders, Trump additionally called for the closing of messaging service WeChat, an app released originally in China on January 21, 2011. This ban is less simple to understand than the Tiktok ban because Trump has no direct reason for disliking the service. If anything, WeChat had begun to serve his own agenda with chat groups and messaging chains directed towards politically conservative Chinese Americans. The lack of any explanation for this ban led people to form their own theories as to why it had occurred. 

Some thought that it was a political strategy against China, but others believed the intent was different. By targeting and dismantling a chat service used mostly by Chinese Americans, the misconception that the Chinese government utilizes WeChat for communist propaganda is also a message that Trump’s supporters are spreading. 

While WeChat and Tiktok have spread misinformation, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the president’s preferred social media, have also been culprits. Facebook is infamous for spreading large quantities of misinformation targeted to certain right-leaning groups online. Additionally, Facebook is recognized by various intelligence agencies as being utilized as Russian propaganda, indirectly interfering in the 2016 election. The Trump Administration’s target on these specific media sites is not random; it is biased. If the genuine concern was to avoid misinformation, hacking and the selling of user data, the campaign would have targeted a variety of social media companies. This attack is specific to Chinese Americans and teenagers. 

The Senate has effectively banned ByteDance, the company that produces Tiktok and other less popular apps, in the United States. The order placed on August 14 plans out the eventual sale of Tik Tok by November 12. This means that the company is currently being effectively dismembered. The company is filing small lawsuits towards the U.S government. Likewise, individual employees are suing on the grounds that this order would diminish them of their personal well being. As of currently, TikTok is still up and running with only a few of these restrictions in place. The app can no longer withhold new updates or properly change for maintenance. The upcoming election will likely have concluded by the time the final and most stringent ban is in place: the official and complete takedown of TikTok servers and the app’s functionality. Due to the possible change in administration, this date is not final. 

No matter how much the current administration defends it, the ban of these apps is not only censorship but also a way to spread xenophobia and anti-youth rhetoric. The primary demographic for TikTok is one of young and liberal members. Knowing this, Trump and his officials recognize the liberal voices of TikTok as a threat, which they are to his own personal agenda. His claim that diminishing TikTok “protects national security” is simply a front. 

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