(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign released it first-ever TikTok on Sunday, during the Super Bowl, announcing it had joined the enormously popular app with a video featuring Biden — despite widespread data-security concerns in Washington over TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company.
In a 30-second video captioned “lol hey guys,” Biden was given a series of “this-or-that” prompts related to the Super Bowl, including “Chiefs or 49ers” and “Jason or Travis Kelce” (“Mama Kelce,” he said) before the final prompt: “Trump or Biden?”
“Are you kidding? Biden,” the president replied with a smile.
The video had garnered nearly five million views by Monday at noon, which the campaign touted in explaining the decision to launch an account.
Hey by the way, we just joined TikTok
— Biden-Harris HQ (@BidenHQ) February 12, 2024
“The President’s Tik Tok debut … is proof positive of both our commitment and success in finding new, innovative ways to reach voters in an evolving, fragmented and increasingly personalized media environment,” Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Rob Flaherty, said in a statement to ABC News.
“I suppose you could say our ‘Roman Empire’ is meeting voters wherever they are,” Flaherty added, referencing a popular meme on TikTok referring to something someone thinks about very often.
However, Biden himself has previously expressed security concerns regarding whether ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, could share user data with China’s authoritarian government.
Chinese officials have said they would never do that and TikTok has defended itself by citing Project Texas, an initiative that the company said keeps all U.S. user data on servers within the country — “outside the reach or influence of any foreign government.”
Nonetheless, the president signed a law in 2022 banning TikTok from federal government devices — with officials later citing “ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy” — and his administration last year called for TikTok to sever ties with its Chinese parent company or risk getting banned in the U.S.
A TikTok spokesperson said at the time, in part, “The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting and verification, which we are already implementing.”
The White House has also announced support for bipartisan legislation that could be used to ban the app and Biden said in February 2023, “I know I don’t have it on my phone.”
But nine months out from a presidential election, which the campaign is contending will be the most consequential in American history, Biden can now be found on TikTok: @bidenhq.
White House spokesman John Kirby faced questions on Monday about where the administration stands on TikTok, in light of the campaign’s move, but said “I can only tell you that it’s not allowed on government devices. That policy remains the case, and I just can’t speak for the campaign or their decisions.”
He referred questions to Biden’s campaign team.
The campaign is taking advanced security precautions around devices using the app and incorporating a “sophisticated” security protocol, advisers said, though they declined to specify the precautions.
The new account will be managed by campaign staff, and there’s no decision at this time on whether Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris may also create personal pages in the future.
Until now, Biden had been tapping influencers and leaning on the Democratic National Committee’s TikTok page to spread his message on the app, as well as accounts like GenZ for Biden.
The choice to release the campaign’s first video during Sunday’s game came after Biden received some scrutiny for not participating in a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS, but the campaign said it is intentionally working to target voters who don’t tune in to traditional media outlets.
Four months ago, Biden also joined Truth Social, the platform launched by former President Donald Trump.
The campaign’s profile pictures on both TikTok and Truth Social show Biden’s “Dark Brandon” meme, featuring the president in black and white, smiling, with red lasers shooting out of his eyes.
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