Trump and TikTok

How Trump’s efforts to ban TikTok are signs America is flirting with authoritarian dictatorship

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3 minute read — By Safia Bartley

President Trump and the popular social media app TikTok are two of America’s, and the world’s, biggest talking points – and have been travelling on a collision course for months. With Trump most recently coming under fire for his handling of the Black Lives Matter movement, his lack of precautions around COVID-19 and his re-election rallies, TikTok users have used their platforms to voice their varying opinions on him.

On 20th June, Trump held a re-election rally in Tulsa. With the rally requiring ticket entry to help control crowds and predict an outcome of attendees, hundreds of TikTok users ordered tickets without the intent of going, as to throw off his numbers and cause the audience present to be underwhelming. In the end the event had over one million ticket requests. The venue, which only held 19,000 seats, added extra seating outside for the supposed million attendees however, only 6,200 people attended. Trump was said to be furious about the embarrassing audience turnout. So, in a bid to protect future rallies and help control the content about him online, Trump proposed to ban TikTok in the USA.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company ByteDance and is known for having ties to the Chinese government through its use of stealing and selling data from users; yet it is still one of the most popular apps in the US amongst all ages. Instead of forcing its Chinese owners to divest it, Trump has decided to try and ban the app using his own “authority”, which will prove more difficult that appears. His plan has currently only seen his employees (including those in the US Military) delete the app from their personal devices, but he has also used targeted ads to “out” the app for being corrupt and a ‘national security threat’, which have been distributed on other social media sites like Instagram and Twitter. His future plans to ban TikTok depend on the co-operation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), as they oversee the control of non-US companies in the US. Last year they investigated TikTok for the unethical stealing of users information, but failed to collect enough evidence to make a court-worthy case.

With America having the freedom of a democracy, many people, both users of social media and not, feel Trump’s attempt to ban TikTok are not in the best interest of the people and are a clear indication he is moving towards a dictatorship style presidency. TikTok is a consumer app and citizens feel it is their right whether or not to engage with it. They believe that Trump trying to ban the app is no more than a ploy to control those in America and limit peoples’ freedom of speech because he can’t handle having negative news spread about him. The US is run by a democracy which, in short, means they are ruled by the majority (who are represented by those in Senate). Using his “authority” to ban TikTok, without consulting the people, would contradict the democratic rule currently in place in the US.

Subsequently, due to Trump’s persistent defamation of TikTok, the app has decided to retaliate and is filing a lawsuit to sue the Trump Administration. They are arguing Trump has tried to ban them without any concrete evidence and, in an official statement released by TikTok on August 6th, they claim they have gone to great efforts and made multiple attempts to sort out the issues raised by Trump, but have been ignored. They feel the executive order given by Trump has the potential to strip them of their constitutional rights and is too extreme to be followed through with no due process or investigation.

Neither Trump nor his administration have released anything regarding his future plans to ban the app, or address the lawsuit, but we can assume the battle is not yet over.