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Biden is backing a bill to ban TikTok – while also using TikTok for his campaign

Published Mar 8th, 2024 3:48PM EST
President Biden
Image: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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President Biden may have posted his first video to TikTok last month in an attempt to reach Gen Z voters, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of the popular video-sharing app. On the contrary, Biden is now backing a bill in Congress that would result in a domestic ban of the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.

Making this even more ironic is the fact that Biden — whose first TikTok video saw him answering Super Bowl-related questions and was captioned ‘lol hey guys’ — is essentially picking up where the Trump administration left off. His predecessor got behind the idea of a TikTok ban as part of a larger decoupling from China that included banning Huawei, the levying of tariffs, and a trade war. Trump’s push to ban the increasingly popular TikTok from the US, however, fell to the wayside with the onset of the Covid pandemic.

Since then, TikTok has come under fire for everything from the way it handles data to the surveilling of journalists and the company’s nebulous relationship with China — such that, now, the Biden White House is poised to go even farther than Trump did. “This bill is important,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in recent days, about the legislation that would impose a ban if ByteDance doesn’t sell off the app over the myriad national security concerns.

That last part is, of course, a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. The so-called Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, which was introduced on Tuesday, is about ensuring that “ownership isn’t in the hands of those who may do us harm,” Jean-Pierre continued to reporters. It would give Biden the authority to ban TikTok, but it’s also likely that some sort of byzantine ownership structure could emerge that satisfies the Chinese ownership issue while also not completely severing the company’s ties from its home country.

Also, just because Biden is in support of a TikTok ban doesn’t mean it’ll automatically happen, by any means.

When Trump tried this, for example, the company filed suit and a federal judge blocked that earlier ban attempt. As for supporters of the app, look to them to cry foul over a supposed First Amendment infringement here (their thinking being that TikTok is a tool of expression, and so banning it tramples upon those users’ freedom of expression — a spurious argument, as I’ve noted in a separate post, because if your First Amendment free speech rights pre-date TikTok, that means those rights also outlast TikTok, too).

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.