opinion

OPINION: Trump's war on TikTok is merely a distraction



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TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms to share personalized, short videos. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many users have found communities on TikTok to share their content with and stay connected. 

But last month, President Donald Trump threatened to take this platform away from millions of consumers, alleging TikTok has access to users’ personal information that can be used against the United States by the Chinese Communist Party. After Walmart and Oracle offered to buy a share of the social media platform, the Trump administration temporarily delayed its mission to ban TikTok and approved the deal between the two companies. 

Trump has attempted to ban TikTok in the U.S. on several occasions, notably during times when a scandal caused by his administration had leaked or when infection rates for the coronavirus were soaring. Trump’s determination to ban TikTok serves as a distraction from crimes his administration is committing behind the scenes. 

The threats to ban TikTok began when the Trump administration claimed the Chinese government can access personal information and data from American users, in turn allowing them to collect information that could potentially harm the U.S. government. Yet, Trump has refused to review several American-based social media platforms that knowingly collect more data and spread false information. 

One of the most prominent examples of this is Facebook, a platform notorious for spreading misinformation and refusing to fact check ads. Recently, the popular social media platform ran ads with false information about mail-in voting, with one accusing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, of using a coronavirus relief bill to force mail-in voting on American citizens. 

Most false advertisements run on Facebook are supportive of the Trump campaign, which is why our current administration refuses to regulate it. Additionally, Trump’s second round of attempts to ban TikTok began after news of a whistleblower who previously worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility alleged ICE was conducting forced hysterectomies and sterilizations on women. The whistleblower also claimed immigrants were facing medical neglect and that ICE grossly mishandled coronavirus cases in their facilities. 

It is suspicious that time and time again, Trump has refused to address multiple recent controversies occurring under his administration, yet he’s been persistent in his effort to ban a social media platform. During a pandemic, TikTok is among the least harmful things to American society. 

Another possible motive behind Trump’s war on TikTok is the sabotage done to his campaign rallies by anti-Trump TikTok users. On multiple occasions, users registered for tickets for his rallies with no intentions of attending. This plan proved to be successful as the Trump campaign experienced a surprisingly low turnout for several of their rallies, including a June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Two weeks after the fiasco in Tulsa, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke publicly about considerations to ban TikTok, becoming the first Trump administration official to speak about a possible ban on the app. This raises questions because TikTok has been available in the U.S. for more than two years and this is the first time the Trump administration proposed to restrict it. 

While threats to ban the app may have been used to distract Americans from several other controversies, it is only logical to conclude the prevalent anti-Trump activism on the platform is what started the fire. It is truly heart wrenching to have an administration more focused on banning a social media platform than combating a virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. 

As young people, some of whom are first-time voters, we have the power to change the path of this country in November. I encourage everyone to vote. Our lives, quite literally, depend on it.

Rama Sardar (she/her) is a freshman studying media. She aspires to become a film director and a screenwriter.

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