Trump, the TikTok Ban, & Freedom of Speech

Whether we admit to it or not, we have all become addicted to TikTok to some extent during quarantine. People have gone viral over the most random videos, and different communities — from tree huggers, to LGBTQA+, to dark academia — have formed on this app. More interestingly, it has become a new platform for Generation Z and Millenials to express political opinions, something especially of importance prior to the upcoming presidential election. However, the overwhelming spread of anti-Trump content has become a threat to the incumbent president’s re-election campaign. 

A few months back, TikTok allowed the organization of a “mass false registration drive” to a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, meaning that hundreds of TikTok Democrats falsely registered to ensure empty seats at the rally. With the capability of producing such operations, TikTok clearly threatens Trump’s campaign; however, as argues TikTok’s lawyer, TikTok is a public forum. Therefore, TikTok has become an exemplification of our First Amendment freedom of speech and right to criticize those in power. 

In addition, Tiktok has allowed the spread of protest and police brutality videos to circulate on the internet more efficiently (especially following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd), making people more knowledgeable about the Black Lives Matter movement. It has consequently made people more conscious of the fact that it is essential for the winner of the 2020 election to be a proud anti-racism activist because police brutality against young Black men is a public health risk. 

Out of concern for November 3, Trump decided to use an executive order in the beginning of August which would ban the Chinese apps Wechat and TikTok. In order to justify his action, Trump denounced the possibility that the Chinese government was using these apps to spy on American users. However, the ban for Apple and Google to sell these apps did not go through thanks to Judge Carl Nichols of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, but certain bans may be put into effect in November. 

Therefore, Trump used a national security argument to conceal his attempt to stop the young anti-Trump movement on TikTok, but the platform should remain usable for users.