Biden campaign debuts official TikTok account, but app is still banned on most government devices

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City, U.S., February 7, 2024. 

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign launched an official TikTok account Sunday evening. The account is noteworthy because TikTok is currently banned on most U.S. government-issued devices.

The TikTok account, with the handle “@bidenhq,” debuted Sunday during Lunar New Year celebrations in China and Super Bowl 58 in the U.S.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In late 2022, Biden signed legislation that barred most federal government-owned devices from using TikTok. The provision was part of a massive omnibus spending bill and, at the time, it represented a major win for China hawks in Congress.

Several states and New York City also followed suit, banning TikTok on government-owned devices last year, pointing to a wide range of security concerns.

TikTok’s parent company is China-based ByteDance. The company’s CEO Shou Zi Chew is Singaporean and a graduate of Harvard Business School.

One of TikTok’s biggest outside investors is Susquehanna International Group. Billionaire co-founder of the firm, Jeffrey Yass, has donated millions to lawmakers who want to block an outright ban of the app in the states.

Several U.S. lawmakers have accused TikTok, and other social media platforms, of spreading content online that has been harmful to children’s mental health and failing to protect kids online.

Biden campaign advisors told NBC News the TikTok account is part of an effort to meet voters where they are.

The app remains essential to younger people, including of those of voting age in the U.S. According to Pew Research data released in late 2023, about a third of 18-29 year olds in the U.S. said they regularly get news on TikTok, a higher share than ever before.

Tighter regulation of social media companies including TikTok, Meta, Snap, Discord and X (formerly Twitter) represented a rare issue of bipartisan agreement during a Senate hearing on child safety last month.

The Biden White House has carried on a love-hate relationship with TikTok since Biden took office. On one hand, the administration openly courted TikTok stars and content producers to help spread public service messages and engage young people with civic events.

But as China-skeptical lawmakers ratcheted up their campaign against the company in recent years, the Biden White House tacitly agreed with them, going so far as to reportedly pressure ByteDance to sell TikTok.

Social media CEOs testify at hearing on child safety

CNBC’s Jonathan Vanian contributed reporting.

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