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Jun 2, 2024, 1:57pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Trump follows Biden and joins TikTok to reach young voters

Insights from Politico, New York Times, and CNBC


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Donald Trump
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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The News

Former President Donald Trump joined TikTok on Sunday, gaining 1.3 million followers within hours on a platform he once sought to ban as president.

The move follows the Biden campaign, which joined the platform in February.

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TikTok is currently under scrutiny in the US: Congress has voted to ban the app or force its sale from ByteDance, its Chinese owner, to a US entity over national security concerns. But political strategists see the platform as an essential tool for reaching younger voters in an increasingly contentious presidential election campaign.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

TikTok may be the biggest winner

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Sources:  
Politico, BBC, Associated Press, CNBC

The US government wants to force China-based ByteDance to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban, but Trump and Biden joining the app is “a major win” as it fights back, Politico reported, while some creators criticized the “core hypocrisy” of it all. Trump tried to ban TikTok in office, while Biden signed legislation in 2022 to block most government employees from using TikTok on their work devices. Trump in particular has changed his rhetoric on TikTok, “a sign that both campaigns see TikTok, with its 170 million users in the United States, as a messaging tool worth pursuing regardless of the controversy surrounding the app.”

TikTok has a base of pro-Trump and far-right content

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Sources:  
Politico, Puck News, New York Times

TikTok is “particularly attractive to Trump’s campaign given there’s a two-to-one ratio of pro-Trump versus pro-Biden content on the app,” one TikTok official told Politico, a ratio first reported by Puck News. A Republican digital strategist told the New York Times that Trump is already outpacing Biden’s engagement “from an organic standpoint” on the app, since there are many TikTok creators who do “pro-Trump content for him for free.” The trend spans across the Atlantic; in Europe, TikTok accounts belonging to far-right party politicians tend to have stronger engagement with younger users than do those belonging to more centrist lawmakers, and a quarter of European lawmakers on TikTok are linked to right-wing European parties and groups.

Strategists predict TikTok could define 2024 elections

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Sources:  
Politico, Semafor, Vox

“The campaign is playing on all fields,” a Trump campaign advisor told Politico, citing TikTok as a way to reach out to younger voters who could prove critical to winning what many see as a coin-toss election. More Americans get their news from social media now than in 2020, and reaching out to voters where they are could help move the needle in either direction. Younger voters are feeling disillusioned by politics in general, as Semafor reported, but Trump could spin that in his favor, as voters mistrustful of institutions tend to lean to Trump, Vox wrote.

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