The 2024 reelection campaign for US President Joe Biden has launched an official account on TikTok, the popular video-sharing app that has been under scrutiny for its ties to China and its potential national security risks.
The move comes despite the Biden administration’s own policy of banning the use of TikTok on federal government-owned devices, citing the possibility that the app’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, could share user data with the Chinese government or use it for propaganda purposes.
The campaign said it was taking “advanced safety precautions” to protect its devices and data, and that its presence on TikTok was separate from the app’s ongoing security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which has the power to block or impose conditions on foreign acquisitions of US companies.
The campaign also said it was joining TikTok to reach young voters, who make up a large and influential segment of the app’s user base. According to Pew Research, about a third of 18-29 year olds in the US use TikTok to get news, and the app was the world’s top app by downloads and consumer spending in 2023.
The first video posted by the Biden-Harris HQ TikTok account featured the president being quizzed on various topics, including the Super Bowl, his favorite ice cream flavor, and a conspiracy theory that he rigged the NFL season to help pop star Taylor Swift, who is dating Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce, announce her endorsement of him.
Biden is not the first US politician to use TikTok as a campaign tool. Several Democratic and Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump, have created accounts on the app to connect with voters, especially younger ones, and to showcase their personalities and policies.
However, Biden’s decision to join TikTok may raise eyebrows among some of his supporters and critics, who have expressed concerns about the app’s security and privacy practices, as well as its potential influence on the US political landscape.
TikTok has repeatedly denied that it would share US user data with the Chinese government, and has taken steps to distance itself from its Beijing-based parent company, such as hiring an American CEO, establishing a US-based data center, and creating a content moderation team in the US.
The company has also sued the US government over its attempts to ban or restrict the app in the US, arguing that it was unfairly targeted and deprived of due process.
The fate of TikTok in the US remains uncertain, as CFIUS continues to review ByteDance’s proposed deal to sell a minority stake in the app to US software giant Oracle and retail giant Walmart, which was announced in September 2023 but has not been finalized or approved by the regulators.
Meanwhile, TikTok continues to grow in popularity and influence, attracting millions of users, creators, celebrities, and brands, who use the app to create and consume short-form videos on topics ranging from comedy and music to education and social issues.
The Biden campaign’s entry into TikTok may signal its recognition of the app’s power and potential, as well as its willingness to embrace new and innovative ways of reaching and engaging voters in the digital age.