Joe Biden has a “really old President” problem.
Republicans and Democrats alike are pushing him to address what they claim is a national security risk posed by the wildly popular Chinese-owned TikTok app, but, really, what’s a little communism compared to reaching the more than 100 million regular American users who scroll through the video shorts, especially when the vast majority of them are young, impressionable would-be voters?
American Bridge 21st Century is an independent political committee that throws its support to Democratic candidates, and its co-founder, Bradley Beychok, is keenly aware of what a “valuable weapon” TikTok can be.
“Right now TikTok can be a valuable weapon, especially since Republicans have run away from it for political reasons,” Beychok told The Wall Street Journal. “You wouldn’t want a tool like that to be taken off the shelf.”
Ben Shapiro: Joe Biden, trans TikTok influencer and the collapse of the west https://t.co/7eV6Ydu3kC pic.twitter.com/RRZzqy9SyT
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) October 27, 2022
As BizPack Review previously reported, TikTok was banned “on government-issued mobile devices in December, and the House’s internal cybersecurity office directed members and staffers to delete the app from any work phones on Dec. 27 due to a ‘high risk to users.'”
“The bipartisan omnibus spending bill passed on Dec. 23 prohibits TikTok on executive branch mobile devices, with limited carveouts for national security, law enforcement and research purposes,” BPR reported.
That did not, however, stop Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) from staying active on the app.
Lawmakers are still using TikTok after voting to ban it on federal government devices https://t.co/RaAookmXEU pic.twitter.com/H2kvoy03bU
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 9, 2023
When asked in February about TikTok, President Biden said he wasn’t sure about banning the app.
“I’m not sure,” he told a reporter upon returning to the White House from a weekend at Camp David. “I know I don’t have it on my phone.”
On March 1, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “We’re very clear that TikTok poses a problem and an issue. And so, we have concerns about that as it relates to Americans’ data, collecting Americans’ data, and the potential national security risk.”
“And we’ve been very, very clear on that,” she insisted.
I remember when Trump signed an executive order banning TikTok/WeChat for American privacy concerns – but a judge blocked the order. Then Biden came along & dropped Trump's attempt to ban TikTok/WeChat.
Today, the WH says TikTok is a "potential nat'l security risk."
Oh. 🙄 pic.twitter.com/GsFE7TUvRf
— JamaicanPattee 🧡✌️🇺🇸 (@JamaicanPattee) March 2, 2023
Pressed again on Wednesday, Jean-Pierre refused to say whether Biden would ban the app, but did acknowledge that the White House has “concerns with this particular app.”
“We want to make sure that the digital products and services Americans use every day are safe and secure,” she said, according to The Journal.
The reason for the reluctance of the Biden administration to ban what it admits is a potential national security risk is clear, according to the author of the Wall Street Journal article, John McKinnon.
“TikTok’s audience is predominantly younger people, who typically favor Democrats by wide margins,” he writes.
Turnout among younger voters surged in 2018, 2020 and 2022, helping the party deliver Republicans political setbacks. Unusually high turnout among younger voters in the 2022 midterm elections was credited with helping the party maintain control of the Senate and also limit its losses in the House.
For Democrats, a key to reaching those younger voters has been TikTok, according to consultants in both parties. That advantage has been sharpened by many Republicans’ refusal to use the platform because of its perceived security risks, Democratic strategists say.
In other words, as one Democratic consultant told the journalist, banning TikTok with the next election cycle fast approaching would be “politically insane.”
That, however, is not a strong enough argument to impress American Foreign Policy Council Fellow Michael Sobolik.
“Here’s the problem: as soon as the 24 cycle ends, we’re into 26 — with folks eying 28. The political argument against banning TikTok won’t magically disappear after November 2024,” he tweeted in response to the WSJ article.
“Put the country before politics,” he urged the Biden administration. “Ban TikTok *now*.”
Here’s the problem: as soon as the 24 cycle ends, we’re into 26 — with folks eying 28. The political argument against banning TikTok won’t magically disappear after November 2024.
Put the country before politics. Ban TikTok *now* @johndmckinnon @WSJ pic.twitter.com/TSU9zStQPM
— Michael Sobolik (@michaelsobolik) March 13, 2023
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