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Opinion

Banning TikTok today would hurt Biden’s 2024 prospects

Mar 22, 2023

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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, is slated to testify before Congress on March 23 in response to the Biden administration’s threat to ban the popular app if its Chinese owners don’t sell their stakes in it. Mr. Chew is expected to tell lawmakers that banning the app won’t resolve U.S. concerns that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence explains why she thinks the president should take into account how young voters might respond to a ban on their favorite video-sharing app when they go to the polls in 2024.

Think about it. TikTok attracts young bucks. In the United States, there are more than 100 million TikTok users, and the single largest group of those users are aged 10 to 19. They represent one-third of U.S. TikTok users. This app is where young people will go to learn and create, to share and stay informed. It’s an outlet for youth, as they deal with mass shootings, school shootings, book bannings, abortion rights, and so on. How do you think these young people will respond when Biden, an octogenarian, tries to take away their online outlet? 

Not only does that raise First Amendment concerns, but forcing TikTok to sell would seem to violate restrictions on using presidential power. And also, doing so just because you fear that China could learn more information about these young users sounds silly. It’s laughable, kind of, when you say it out loud. These young TikTok users are on that app sharing details and information about themselves because they want more people to learn about them. And they’re used to having their personal information in the cyber streets. This upcoming generation was born into a world where data breaches and leaks are everything they’ve ever known. Many also know that the U.S. government has data grabs all the time. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled earlier this month that TikTok didn’t have a right to disclose the user data that the federal government demanded TikTok turnover.

So it’s not likely a big deal to TikTok users that the Chinese government could get their data. It’s also not a good look for Biden to be at the helm when TikTok is possibly taken down, given the GOP’s messaging that the Left is trying to silence people. All said, Biden may think he’s scoring points, but he should be aware as he heads into the next election while trying to shake off the whole relatability concern that comes with his age. The man is north of 80 and he still seems to think cannabis is a gateway drug. 

Biden needs to attract and to connect with younger voters who are poised to upend American politics as demographics shift in the coming years. If going into the 2024 presidential election young voters remember Biden largely because he’s the one that took away TikTok instead of high-powered assault rifles, it could play a role in remembering him as a one-term president.

Just like the Trump administration, Team Biden has a beef with TikTok, all over perceived potential national security threats. 

So, of course, that meant that the US had to deliver an ultimatum to the Chinese-owned social media company:  either sell your stakes or be banned. 

So how does this forcing a sale of a social media platform align with this whole what, freedom and free markets narrative that we’ve been pushing for the past few hundred years? I would say it doesn’t. 

But what it does seem to align with, in terms of threatening TikTok, is Biden appearing tough on China. That’s what this is all about — the optics. But what Biden may not see, in this moment, is how banning TikTok could impact new voters in 2024. 

Think about it. TikTok attracts young bucks. In the United States there are more than 100 million TikTok users, and the single largest group of those users are aged 10 to 19. They represent one-third of U.S. TikTok users. This app is where young people will go to learn and create, to share and stay informed. It’s an outlet for youth, as they deal with mass shootings, school shootings, book bannings, abortion rights and so on. How do you think these young people will respond when Biden, an octogenarian, tries to take away their online outlet? 

Not only does that raise First Amendment concerns, but forcing TikTok to sell would seem to violate restrictions on using presidential power. And also, doing so just because you fear that China could learn more information about these young users, sounds silly. It’s laughable, kind of, when you say it out loud. These young TikTok users are on that app sharing details and information about themselves because they want more people to learn about them. And they’re used to having their personal information in the cyber streets. This upcoming generation was born into a world where data breaches and leaks are everything they’ve ever known. Many also know that the U.S. government has data grabs all the time. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled earlier this month that TikTok didn’t have a right to disclose the user data that the federal government demanded TikTok turnover.

So it’s not likely a big deal to TikTok users that the Chinese government could get their data. It’s also not a good look for Biden to be at the helm when TikTok is possibly taken down, given the GOP is messaging that the Left is trying to silence people. All said, Biden may think he’s scoring points, but he should be aware as he heads into the next election while trying to shake off the whole relatability concern that comes with his age. The man is north of 80 and he still seems to think cannabis is a gateway drug. 

Biden needs to attract and to connect with younger voters who are poised to upend American politics as demographics shift in the coming years. If going into the 2024 presidential election, young voters remember Biden largely because he’s the one that took away TikTok instead of high-powered assault rifles, it could play a role in remembering him as a one-term president.

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