Will the TikTok ban push Gen Z into the arms of Donald Trump?

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Mar 15, 2024 at 01:40 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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It’s that time again. Welcome to another edition of our 2024 presidential election weekly recaps. Last week, we tackled a quintessential unhinged Marjorie Taylor Greene moment and this week, we’re going to be focusing on the swaying power of another Republican, Donald Trump. More specifically, we’re going to be questioning whether or not the presidential candidate’s public support of keeping TikTok available to US citizens might just sway Gen Z voters in his favour.

On Wednesday 13 March 2024, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that could ban TikTok nationwide. According to the BBC, the bill was passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, with many of the politicians feeling as though this decision is necessary in order to protect US data. The bill’s primary goal is to either force the app’s sale from Beijing-based parent company ByteDance or to ban it from the country. Cue dramatic music. The next step will be that the Senate will scrutinise the bill and ultimately decide the fate of the app.

Speaking on the decision, Hakeem Jeffries, the House of Representatives minority leader, stated: “It’s simply a divestiture of TikTok so that this social media platform can be owned by an American company that would protect the data and the privacy of the American consumer from malignant foreign interests like the Chinese Communist Party.”

Several Western countries have been taking steps to introduce bans on the Chinese-owned video-sharing platform, particularly for government officials, due to fears over sensitive information being leaked and accessed by the Chinese Communist Party. In response to the US House’s decision, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the vote on the bill “runs contrary to the principles of fair competition and justice,” and that “when someone sees a good thing another person has and tries to take it for themselves, this is entirely the logic of a bandit.”

But what have the two presidential candidates been saying? Trump immediately responded to the bill, posting on his social media platform Truth Social that TikTok is “less of a danger to the USA than Meta.” Moreover, the Republican went on to say that Facebook was a much greater threat to democracy and deemed the app an “enemy of the people.”

Interestingly, the Democrat nominee and incumbent Joe Biden stated just last week that if the bill makes its way through both the House and the Senate he would immediately sign it into law, as reported by Sky News.

The thing is, TikTok is an incredibly important app to a lot of people. And, arguably, the candidate who is most publicly supportive of keeping TikTok accessible to US citizens might be able to use that as a way to engage with younger voters and garner support.

For example, when speaking with the BBC about her thoughts on the ban, one citizen Linzi Taylor stated that TikTok is like “home,” and a place where her business thrives: “I have more subscribers on YouTube but TikTok is where I make money. It’s my livelihood—I started my business in honour of my son during the pandemic. It was also important for mental health.” Moreover, when asked if this issue was important to her as a voter she swiftly answered “absolutely.” “Why would I vote for someone who wants to take away my voice? And my business,” Taylor continued.

A number of netizens have already made clear their upset and dismay at the thought of TikTok being banned.

@msnbc

TikTok creators speaking out against the bill that could ban TikTok in the United States. The House voted Wednesday to pass the legislation and the bill now heads to the Senate. #news #TikTok #TikTokBan #Congress #Politics

♬ original sound - MSNBC

Celebrities have also spoken out about the decision. In a video posted to her own account, Emily Ratajkowski shared that progressive politics have been able to blossom on TikTok due to the fact that it’s one of the last remaining apps that isn’t covertly controlled by the US government or by corporations with the government’s interests in mind.

@emrata

♬ original sound - Emrata

The model went on to emphasise how the US government is likely terrified of the fact that American citizens have been able to access and engage with views and perspectives on the app that they would’ve been able to otherwise.

While it’s unlikely that too many Gen Zers, who have already decided their preferred candidate for the November election, will be swayed one way or the other by this decision, what we might see happen is that young people who were on the fence about their vote may now lean towards the Trump in hopes that he’ll save TikTok.

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