Days before President Trump’s Tulsa Rally, millions of users on TikTok banded together to troll the event by registering for it and not showing up. Just a month after photos of the humiliatingly sparse crowd flooded the internet, Trump decided to ban the popular online video-sharing app. Because it is owned by a Chinese company, the President’s excuse is that TikTok presents a security threat to America – but I’d argue the only security it’s threatening is Donald Trump’s.
On Aug. 6, Trump issued the executive order to ban ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok. The order included claims that the Chinese company’s popular social media app allows “the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.” According to Trump, Tiktok immediately takes large amounts of data from new users and provides China with location tracking of Federal employees.
The order will hurt the many teenagers and young adults who have found fame via the social media app, but more importantly, it endangers all American citizens as well. The President swears to fear for our online safety, but ByteDance vehemently denies handing user information to the Chinese government. There is no concrete proof to back Trump’s claims – and yet, TikTok is still being banned.
Trump seems to have an ulterior motive for the imminent ban.
In fact, it’s actually suspicious that the President would even want to prevent citizens from using a social media app that doesn’t violate laws. But perhaps Trump cares less about data security and more about his reelection campaign. As seen in the Tulsa Rally, TikTok has become increasingly politicized. But this rally foiled by TikTok users struck too close to home for Trump; now that the app is a potential menace to his presidency, he wants it gone, even if it means exaggerating the threat of ByteDance in order to do it.
Recently, Trump has been under fire for a fascistic streak – attempting to push back the election and threatening to outlaw Twitter for fact-checking his posts are just two examples. In Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America,” the 10 steps that dictators have often followed are outlined – number eight is controlling the press. Social media posts are much less credible than newspapers; that said, TikTok is becoming a quasi “press” for young people who want to debate politics. Banning it in order to limit the voices of anti-Trump accounts would, in turn, prevent many of the 800 million active users from making content. Trump is violating our freedom of speech with baseless claims of security threats in hopes of erasing the possibility of his loss in November.
32.5% of TikTok’s users are between the ages of 10 and 19; high schoolers are the backbone of the app’s success. Particularly during the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and throughout the months before the presidential election, students at our school have used TikTok in educational ways; watching live videos of protests, putting up and signing petitions and learning new facts about COVID-19. What once was a shallow social media app for skits and dances has evolved into a way for our generation to communicate our viewpoints on critical issues – our voices are heard.
For many, losing Tiktok means losing their voice.
It is not petty or immature to protest the upcoming ban. TikTok has offered us something that most social media platforms can’t. The very thing our President finds so terrifying is also what makes the app brilliant –everybody has a chance to have a platform and make an impact on their peers. Trump is terrified that teenagers like us will use this popular app to condemn him to the point where his campaign fails, but regardless of one’s opinion on the 2020 election, the ban is unconstitutional. If we allow powerful politicians to start using unsubstantiated claims to limit what we can and can’t say, we won’t have presidents anymore – we’ll have dictators.