US President Joe Biden’s recent foray into TikTok has sparked controversy and raised eyebrows. As the Chinese-owned social media platform is still considered a security risk by the US government, Republican critics have lashed out at Democrat Biden for endorsing an app that is banned on federal government devices due to concerns about data harvesting for Beijing. Even the White House itself admits to having ongoing concerns about TikTok, citing national security issues related to its usage on government devices.

While the White House refrained from formally commenting on campaign matters, it did acknowledge the broader concerns about platforms like TikTok potentially spreading disinformation. This has been a recurring worry raised by US politicians, who accuse TikTok, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, of being a propaganda tool for Beijing. However, TikTok vehemently denies these allegations.

Republican Criticisms

Republican Senator Joni Ernst quipped on X, formerly Twitter, about the Biden campaign joining “the CCP’s dangerous propaganda app,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Representative Darrell Issa also criticized the Biden campaign for joining TikTok after the White House had banned the app from government devices a year ago. The Republican party’s criticisms highlight their concerns regarding potential security compromises and the paradox of the President endorsing an app deemed unsafe by the government itself.

Engaging the Younger Demographic

Despite the criticisms, Biden’s campaign sees TikTok as a valuable platform to engage with younger voters, especially in preparation for the upcoming November election and the potential clash with Republican former president Donald Trump’s social media presence. The campaign hopes that leveraging social media channels like TikTok will help assuage concerns about Biden’s age, which have grown since a special counsel report described him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

“lol hey guys”

The TikTok video, titled “lol hey guys,” was posted on the @bidenhq campaign account during the Super Bowl. The video showcases Biden engaging in lighthearted banter, covering a wide range of topics from politics to the NFL championship game. In response to a right-wing conspiracy theory about the game being rigged for pop star Taylor Swift to endorse him, Biden jokingly states, “I’d get in trouble if I told you.” The video also features the “Dark Brandon” meme, portraying Biden with glowing red eyes and a big grin, often used by Democrats to imply superpowers.

Biden’s campaign team, including campaign deputy manager Rob Flaherty, hailed the President’s TikTok debut, which garnered over 5 million views and counting, as a testament to their commitment and success in finding innovative ways to reach voters. Exploring new media platforms like TikTok aligns with Biden’s strategy, which has seen him hold fewer press conferences compared to his predecessors. According to the University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, Biden has had 33 press conferences in his first three years, while Barack Obama had 66 and Trump had 52 within the same timeframe. This deliberate shift towards new media reflects the campaign’s desire to adapt to the changing media landscape and connect with a wider range of voters.

Biden’s TikTok debut has ignited a fiery debate surrounding national security concerns, potential data privacy risks, and the effectiveness of engaging with younger voters through non-traditional media channels. The Biden campaign’s decision to embrace TikTok demonstrates their determination to leverage innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and win over key demographics. As the 2022 election approaches, it remains to be seen how the Biden campaign’s engagement with TikTok will impact voter sentiment and whether it will prove to be a successful strategy.

Technology

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