This piece was originally published in The Free Press.
The midterm elections of 2022 were many things—a shocker for Republicans, the possible end of Donald Trump, a win for centrist Democrats. Overlooked is the fact that they were also a big turning point for TikTok, the Chinese social-media platform.
TikTok is not only the most trafficked news app for Americans under 30. It was also a major political force this year. Exhibit A: the Senate race in Pennsylvania, in which both Democrat John Fetterman and his Republican rival, Mehmet Oz, deployed TikTok, with Oz railing against the cost of vegetables in one video, and Fetterman slamming Oz for saying “crudité” in a highly effective response. Other candidates who took to TikTok this cycle include Tim Ryan, who ran for Senate in Ohio, and Val Demmings, who ran for Senate in Florida. (Both are Democrats.) The Democratic National Committee, early this year, launched its own TikTok channel.
Now, there are calls to shut it down. Just yesterday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau has “national-security concerns” about TikTok. Last Friday, the top Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, called TikTok “China’s digital fentanyl.” The day before, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Mike Gallagher, both Republicans, introduced legislation banning the social-media platform, noting that the data of millions of Americans is “effectively controlled” by the Chinese Communist Party. Earlier in the month, Carr also said the U.S. government should ban TikTok.
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