‘lol hey guys’: President Biden joins Tiktok despite security concerns

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WASHINGTON ― How badly does President Joe Biden need young voters in this year’s election? Enough to join TikTok despite his administration’s security concerns about the social media platform.

The Biden campaign launched Biden’s first TikTok account during Sunday night’s Super Bowl: “lol hey guys,’ reads Biden’s first post attached to a 27-second video featuring the president.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and used by 150 million people in the U.S., has drawn scrutiny in Washington over concerns that the Chinese government could use the app to gain access to private user data or spread misinformation.

The Biden administration last year threatened to ban TikTok if the app’s Chinese owners do not sell their stakes in the company, according to the video-sharing app. The administration also required federal agencies to remove TikTok from all government-issued devices because of privacy concerns and the potential misuse of data.

The problem for Biden ahead of the 2024 election: TikTok is where young voters spend their time. And the share of U.S. adults who say they regularly get news from TikTok, has more than quadrupled in just three years, a Pew Research Center survey found.

Currently, 43% of TikTok users say they regularly get news from the app, up from 33% who said the same in 2022, according to Pew.

“The campaign will continue meeting voters where they are, innovating to create content that will resonate with critical audiences and the core constituencies that make up the president’s diverse and broad coalition of voters,” Biden campaign advisers said.

TikTok has been under review by a federal regulatory arm known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States over potential security issues.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said the administration’s concerns with TikTok remain despite the campaign’s TikTok rollout.

“Nothing’s changed about the national security concerns, from the NSC’s perspective, about the use of TikTok on government devices,” Kirby said. “That policy is still in place.”

Kirby said he could not say whether the White House had discussions with the campaign on the decision to join TikTok.

TikTok is most popular among young voters who could be crucial for Biden in a likely rematch against former President Donald Trump. Biden won young voters overwhelmingly in 2020, but a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll last month found Trump leads Biden 37%-33% among voters under 35 years old. Many young voters have been turned off by Biden’s unwavering support for Israel in its war in Gaza.

“We are taking advanced safety precautions around our devices and incorporating a sophisticated security protocol to ensure security,” Biden campaign advisers said. “The campaign’s presence is independent and apart from the ongoing CFIUS review.”

In Biden’s first TikTok post, a narrator asks Biden a serious of rapid-response questions. Biden declines to pick the Kansas City Chiefs or San Francisco 49ers because “my wife’s a Philly girl.” Biden goes on to choose watching the game rather than the halftime show or commercials and responds “Mama Kelce” when asked to pick Travis Kelce or Jason Kelce.

Biden then poked fun at a popular conspiracy on the right.

“I’d get in trouble if I told you,” Biden says with a smile when asked about “deviously plotting to rig the season so the Chiefs could make the Super Bowl or the Chiefs just being a good football team?”

The video then shows his campaign’s “Dark Brandon” meme before the narrator asks one last question: Trump or Biden? “Are you kidding me,” Biden says. “Biden.”

Since launching, the video had nearly 5 million views as of Monday morning and Biden’s TikTok account has attracted 47,000 followers.

Reach Joey Garrison on X, formerly Twitter, @joeygarrison

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