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Feb 12, 2024, 6:03pm EST
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The reaction to Biden campaign’s controversial TikTok launch

Insights from NBC News, Reuters, and NPR

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President Joe Biden speaks during the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 12, 2024.
AFP via Getty Images/Jim Watson
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President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is officially — and controversially — on TikTok. The move is an about-face that puts the campaign at odds with the Biden administration’s scrutiny of the popular Chinese-owned app over national security concerns.

In 2022, Biden banned use of the app on all federal devices, and the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance could share data with the Chinese Communist Party. In response to questions about getting on TikTok, the Biden campaign said it is taking “advanced safety precautions around our devices and incorporating a sophisticated security protocol to ensure security.”

The campaign’s debut post, captioned “lol hey guys,” was a video of Biden answering Super Bowl-related questions and joking about the right-wing conspiracy theories surrounding Taylor Swift and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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TikTok move comes as focus on Biden’s age intensifies

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Sources:  
NBC News, Semafor, USA Today, Pew Research Center

Despite wanting their messaging on the powerful platform, Biden’s campaign said last year that they did not intend to have a TikTok account, NBC News reported. The apparent reversal of that decision had news reports speculating over its timing: The campaign’s TikTok account was launched just days after a special counsel report renewed focus on Biden’s age and mental acuity, characterizing him as an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

The TikTok account is “a sign of just how badly Democrats want to court young Americans ahead of the election,” NPR reported, an age group that Biden overwhelmingly won in 2020 but is now failing to appeal to. Trump leads Biden 37% to 33% with the under-35 crowd, according to polling from last month. TikTok could be one way to bridge that gap: About 44% of Americans from the ages of 18 to 29 say they regularly get their news on the platform — a number that has quadrupled in recent years.

Republicans rebuke move as ‘desperate’, while some Democrats are also wary

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Sources:  
Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Josh Hawley, Reuters

“It’s shameful that Biden is embracing TikTok to compensate for bad polls driven by his mental decline,” Sen. Tom Cotton posted on X, calling the platform a “spy app for the Chinese Communist Party.” Sen. Josh Hawley posted on X that “Joe Biden is so desperate to do anything to help his sad reelection bid he’s willing to use a Chinese spy app his own government has outlawed.”

Some Democrats also raised concerns. Sen. Mark Warner, who supports a full ban of the app in the U.S., said Monday that he’s “a little worried about a mixed message" and wanted to ban the app fully, as India has done, citing national security concerns. Biden’s national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday that “nothing’s changed about the national security concerns, from the [National Security Council] perspective” regarding TikTok being banned on government devices.

Young voters say Biden is ‘meeting us where we are’

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Sources:  
NPR, The Washington Post

Liberal voting advocates applauded the move. “A few years ago, young voters were all but ignored. Now, we have political power like never before, and the incumbent president’s campaign is on TikTok,” Jack Lobel, National Press Secretary for the youth-run group Voters of Tomorrow, told NPR.

Other young voters agreed, with one Gen Z political content creator telling The Washington Post: “Young people around the country have been waiting for this moment. The president is meeting us where we are, and we’ll help him win because of it.”

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