WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is paying for ads on Facebook’s social media platforms urging supporters to sign a petition banning ByteDance’s TikTok, as the White House ramps up rhetoric to restrict the video app in the United States.
“TikTok has been caught red handed by monitoring what is on your phone’s Clipboard,” read all the ads that are running on Facebook and Instagram.
Viewers are encouraged to “sign the petition now to ban TikTok”, according to the ads, which direct users to a survey where they have to input personal information including their e-mail address and mobile number.
The ads, which appeared in users’ feeds from Friday (July 17), come just weeks after teens on TikTok were said to have played a role in contributing to lower-than-expected attendance for President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa. Prior to the event, which Mr Trump boasted of having nearly one million sign-ups, many teenagers posted videos of their rally registrations with the intention of not showing up.
The ads were paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and primarily target users aged 18 to 64, with the largest percentage of views seemingly coming from election battleground states such as Texas and Florida, according to Facebook’s ad library.
Mr Trump’s administration has also been involved in attacking TikTok, and the president has suggested that banning the app, owned by one of China’s biggest tech firms, could be one way to retaliate against China’s approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged Americans not to download the app unless they want their personal information falling into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.
In October, the US Senate called for an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms. The company says American user data is stored in servers in the US and Singapore, not China.