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'It's an honour': Trump joins Tiktok after once trying to ban platform, instantly gets 3 million followers

Trump joined the Chinese-owned social media platform after his landmark hush money conviction and after Biden signed a bill that can ban TikTok, used by 170 million Americans. As president, Trump tried to unsuccessfully ban the app citing a threat to national security threat.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: June 03, 2024 6:58 IST
US President Donald Trump at a UFC fight.
Image Source : REUTERS US President Donald Trump at a UFC fight.

Washington: Former US President and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump officially joined the China-owned short video-sharing platform TikTok, after once trying to ban the app during his term in the White House. Trump called the action "an honour" as he posted from a UFC fight two days after he became the first former president to be found guilty of criminal charges.

Trump is locked in a close race with Democratic President Joe Biden ahead of the November 5 election, and the decision to join TikTok could help him reach younger voters in his third bid for the White House. He rapidly gained three million followers on the platform, and the launch video he posted from his account has more than 56 million views.

"It's an honour," Trump said in the TikTok video, which features footage of him waving to fans and posing for selfies at the Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday night. The video ends with Trump telling the camera: "That was a good walk-on, right?" Meanwhile, Biden's campaign is also on TikTok with 340,000 followers, even though he has signed a bill that would ban the app used by 170 million Americans if its Chinese owner Bytedance fails to divest it.

Why did Trump try to ban TikTok?

Speaking about the decision of the Trump campaign to join TikTok, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said, "We will leave no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content... There's no place better than a UFC event to launch President Trump's Tik Tok, where he received a hero's welcome and thousands of fans cheered him on."

Throughout his campaign, Trump has used appearances at UFC fights to project an image of strength and to try to appeal to potential voters who may not closely follow politics or engage with traditional news sources. It's also part of a broader effort to connect with young people and minority voters, particularly Latino and Black men, to boost his chances of securing a second term at the White House.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with China's government, which the company has denied. As president, Trump tried to ban TikTok through an executive order that said "the spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned" by Chinese companies was a national security threat. The courts blocked the action after TikTok sued. 

Trump said earlier this year that he still believes TikTok posed a national security risk but was opposed to banning it because that would help its rival, Facebook, which he continues to criticise over his 2020 election loss to Biden. The US President signed a bill forcing ByteDance to sell the company within nine months, or face a ban. Biden barred the app on most government devices in December 2022.

Trump's conviction in hush money case

Trump's decision to join TikTok comes after a jury in New York found him guilty on 34 charges of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by covering up hush money payments made to a porn actor who claimed she and Trump had sex. Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the verdict. He will be sentenced on July 11.

In that appearance, Trump said he was "OK" with the prospect of potential jail time or house arrest, saying it was "the way it is", although he suggested that the public might not accept such a punishment for a former president now running to return to the White House. "I don't know that the public would stand it, you know. I'm not sure the public would stand for it," he said. "I think it would be tough for the public to take. You know, at a certain point there's a breaking point."

Trump already has an active social media presence with more than 87 million followers on X and over 7 million followers on his own platform, Truth Social, where he posts almost daily. Most Republican candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, have shunned the use of TikTok and called for its ban for its connections to China.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Russia reacts to Trump's conviction, says 'illegal means' used to get rid of political rivals

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