Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now

Biden's campaign gives in and joins TikTok. Blame the youngs

President Biden's reelection campaign is going somewhere that his White House has feared to tread.

During the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, "BidenHQ" posted its first-ever TikTok, with the caption: "lol hey guys."

It's a sign of just how badly Democrats want to court young Americans ahead of the election. The social media platform is disproportionately popular with that demographic.

The White House has stayed away from TikTok because of privacy and national security concerns related to the app's owner, Chinese company ByteDance. The app is banned on government devices, and the powerful Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has been reviewing its ownership structure.

Until now, the campaign had followed that lead. But not anymore.

Why the campaign changed its mind about going on TikTok

The video features Biden answering questions about the Super Bowl, and makes fun of the viral conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the NFL rigged the season so Taylor Swift could come out on the field and endorse Biden.

"I'd get in trouble if I told you," Biden said when asked if there was a plot to rig the game. His response follows a quick cut to the 'Dark Brandon' meme.

Nearly a third of Americans under 30 say they regularly get their news from TikTok, according to the Pew Research Center.

It's an age group that helped Biden win the 2020 election, but his approval ratings with the group have sagged, and he faces loud pushback from factions of the Democratic progressive base over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

There is also a potential enthusiasm problem. Among voters under 30, fewer say they "definitely" plan to vote in the presidential election compared to four years earlier, according to the latest Harvard Youth poll, published last winter.

The campaign explained to reporters that joining TikTok was important to get its message on every platform possible because of the fragmented and personalized way that voters consume the news and politics. It also posts on Truth Social, a platform owned by former President Donald Trump.

The campaign had initially said that beefing up its connections to influencers and content creators on TikTok was far more beneficial than having its own account on the platform.

Now, his campaign says it will do both things: continue to expand its influencer network while also having its own presence on TikTok. The campaign said it was taking "advanced safety precautions" to ensure security while using the platform. The White House declined to comment on the move.

Republicans are critical, saying it's a security risk

Some Republican lawmakers were critical of the move. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, called TikTok "a spy app for the Chinese Communist Party... used to push propaganda on American kids and steal data."

Cotton said Biden's campaign was compensating for bad polls and bad headlines from a report last week from special counsel Robert Hur, that described Biden as an "elderly man with a poor memory."

However, some young organizers saw the move as a positive step in the Biden campaign's work to engage with their generation.

"A few years ago, young voters were all but ignored. Now, we have political power like never before, and the incumbent president's campaign is on TikTok," Jack Lobel the National Press Secretary for the youth-run group Voters of Tomorrow. [Copyright 2024 NPR]

Why you can trust KUOW