Would a ban on TikTok upset young voters?: The Biden Administration, like the Trump Administration before it, is threatening to ban the popular social media app. But there are rumblings that such a move would set off a backlash among young voters.
Joe Biden Has a TikTok Choice to Make
Back in the fall of 2020, then-President Donald Trump pushed to ban the China-based TikTok and eventually called attempted to broker a deal in which the U.S. operations of the app would be sold to an American company. That deal eventually died off, and when Trump left office, the status quo remained in place, with TikTok not banned and still owned by Chinese company Bytedance.
In the summer of 2021, President Joe Biden rescinded Trump’s executive order seeking to ban TikTok. But throughout his presidency, as worries about China have become a larger and larger part of politics, TikTok has resurfaced as a major issue.
Several states have banned the app from government-issued devices, while in February, the White House moved to have the app banned from government-issued devices.
Then, earlier this month, the Biden Administration effectively took the Trump Administration’s position, demanding that the company be sold, or face a ban in the U.S. A House committee has passed a bill giving the president the power to ban the app. However, it passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a party-line vote, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no.
Then, last week, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before a Congressional committee, where he was grilled by members of both parties. Per Wired, members of Congress cast Chew as “a stand-in for the Chinese government—in some cases, for communism itself—and then belting him like a side of beef.” Chew, a business CEO who formerly worked as a banker for Goldman Sachs, likely does not view himself as a communist.
What Would Happen?
It’s not exactly clear how a TikTok ban would work, as the government banning the use of a social media app is completely unprecedented.
But one worry has been raised: How would young voters react to the sudden disappearance of TikTok?
According to an NBC News analysis, a TikTok ban would likely be viewed as a “slap in the face” to young people who lean Democratic.
“I’m not defending TikTok as a company, I’m defending my entire generation,” the founder of a group formerly known as “TikTok for Biden,” told NBC News. “If they went ahead with banning TikTok, it would feel like a slap in the face to a lot of young Americans… Democrats don’t understand the political consequences this would have.”
President Biden himself has hosted TikTok influencers at the White House in the past.
The NBC story added that even ahead of any ban, very few of the elected officials or other decision-makers have likely ever used TikTok.
“The politician in me thinks you’re gonna literally lose every voter under 35, forever,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told NBC, before acknowledging that a ban might be necessary regardless.
One member of Congress agreed.
“Banning TikTok? I mean, are you trying to engage young voters or not? What are we doing here?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., told NBC News.
One of Bowman’s fellow members of New York’s Congressional delegation, and of the “Squad,” took it a step further this week, by actually launching a TikTok account.
On Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), long known for her social media savvy and Instagram usage, joined TikTok and posted her first video. In it, the Congresswoman argued against a ban on the app.
“If we want to make a decision as significant as banning TikTok, and we believe — or someone believes — that there is really important information that the public deserves to know about why such a decision would be justified, that information should be shared.”
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With TikTok banned on government-issued devices, AOC presumably used a personal device to post that video.
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.