Trump, Who Famously Tried to Ban TikTok, Joins TikTok

Donald Trump is officially on TikTok, an app he once tried to ban. The former president joined the China-based social media platform on Saturday night, posting a video of himself at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in New Jersey.

“The president is now on TikTok,” UFC CEO Dana White said into the camera while standing next to the candidate in the first video shared on Trump’s account.

“It’s my honor,” Trump said. With Kid Rock’s “American Badass” playing in the background, clips in the video show Trump in the UFC arena waving to fans as they cheered. Then, Trump said, “That was a good walk on, right?”

By noon on Sunday, the video had already reached more than 33 million views, and Trump gained just shy of two million followers. According to Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung, the campaign will leave “no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” he said in a statement.

While he may be embracing TikTok now, as president, Trump signed an executive order in 2020 that said “the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned” by Chinese companies presented a threat to national security. TikTok sued and successfully blocked the order.

In April, Congress passed a bill Biden later signed that could effectively bar the app in the U.S. unless its owner, ByteDance, sells TikTok to an American company. The bill came to fruition out of fears that ByteDance may be trying to influence U.S. elections and could expose Americans’ data to China’s government. TikTok has filed suit to combat the legislation, claiming it violates the First Amendment.

“Congress has taken the unprecedented step of expressly singling out and banning TikTok: a vibrant online forum for protected speech and expression used by 170 million Americans to create, share, and view videos over the Internet,” the company wrote in the suit.

The federal government, including the F.B.I. and the Federal Communications Commission, has cautioned that Americans’ data held by ByteDance — including browsing habits, location history, and biometric information — could be shared with the Chinese government. TikTok has said it would not allow this to happen.

Even as recently as this past March, Trump has said that he believes TikTok presents a risk to national security. But, he has changed his mind about banning the app, saying it would only help Facebook, which he blames in part for his 2020 election loss.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” Trump said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “There’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad with TikTok. But the thing I don’t like is that without TikTok you’re going to make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people, along with a lot of the media.”

Despite the president signing legislation to ban the app, Biden’s campaign is on TikTok. But the campaign has only 336,000 followers — far short of Trump’s personal account earning nearly two million and growing. Unlike Trump, Biden does not have a personal account on TikTok.

This article has been updated.

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