Trump the TikTok Tyrant

by Talia Raffel, Opinions Writer
graphic by Julie Wang

An alarming July 31 tweet from President Trump claiming that he will ban TikTok if it is not purchased by an American company has triggered a wave of fury among TikTok enthusiasts. Emerging as a new social media outlet, TikTok provides a platform for everyone from dancers and singers to artists and educators to express themselves. To many, it felt as though their voices were being silenced. Creators can share their content on TikTok through short videos with graphics and background music. Trump cites the conspiracy that the Chinese government utilizes TikTok as a form of spying on American users as his motive for the ban.

Regardless of his supposed concern over foreign technology, components of smart devices such as chips, batteries and processors are often made in other countries. Thus, the fear of stolen information cannot be solved by banning a single foreign application; rather, Trump would have to prohibit all imported foreign technology. The threatened ban raised the question of why TikTok, in particular, is being targeted? While there is not clear confirmation, it likely has to do with the fact that TikTok has become a medium for young people to band together in opposition of many of Trump’s policies.

While Trump’s intentions are under question, it is likely that Trump’s rally’s failure in Tulsa, Okla. served as a catalyst for the drama. The TikTok trend of users reserving tickets to the Tulsa rally, not showing up and leaving seats empty left Trump’s rally more than half empty. Trump has shown in the past that he often thinks with his ego and will let his “Twitter fingers” get the best of him. For example, he attacked Meryl Streep for criticizing him at the Golden Globe awards, tweeting “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood…” With his ego trampled, Trump tweeted his plan to ban TikTok soon after his failed rally. 

While silencing his opposers can benefit Trump, there is likely a much larger reason for his threatened TikTok ban. The TikTok ban served as a distraction, creating a firestorm on social media and taking news coverage away from other, more pressing news that would paint Trump in a bad light. Instead of talking about his poor management of COVID-19, the struggling economy or his disrespect towards the Black Lives Matter movement, news organizations were publishing articles about Trump’s TikTok ban. 

TikTok is not perfect; content that supports sexism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia should not be endorsed. The lack of age restriction and content regulation can create an unsafe space for minors. Although these issues need to be addressed, TikTok should be allowed to exist in the U.S. 

TikTok should be given the opportunity to fix its problems. TikTok creators should be able to keep creating and connecting. The American people have the right to use TikTok and young people should be able to express themselves regardless of the president’s ego.