*US election: TikTok in the firing line over Trump campaign fears of China influence
In addition to the struggling economy, deteriorating China relations and the rising number of Covid-19 cases, Trump faces critical policy decisions on cybersecurity and preventing foreign interference
A ban on TikTok in the US could be seen as a deliberate suppression of free speech for partisan reasons, triggering higher turnouts among young people more inclined to vote against Trump
With less than 100 days to go to the US presidential election, Donald Trump and his administration are at a critical point in their bid for re-election. It will not be easy. Trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the polls, Trump will need to address many issues in the coming weeks to prevent an embarrassing result in November.
TikTok, WeChat and many other Chinese social media platforms have become trending topics in the international media, yet the discussions are no longer restricted to the technology and finance spheres. After the White House implied that several Chinese social media platforms could be shut out of US cyberspace, their significance has come under greater scrutiny.
With its short videos, funny meme-style clips and algorithms to attract and retain users, TikTok is also becoming a tool to mobilise political movements. In Canada, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh tried to reach young voters on the platform in the 2019 federal election. In the US, TikTok was used to help sabotage a Trump rally in Tulsa as users registered for tickets to falsely inflate attendance numbers.
The Trump administration should be looking to evaluate potential political gains and losses on any cybersecurity and social media policy changes. The most important question for officials is whether banning Chinese mobile apps in the US will get the president more votes – or fewer – in November.