Could Trump Save TikTok?

TikTok may have found an unlikely ally in Donald Trump.Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

Trump’s TikTok U-turn

TikTok users have continued to flood the social media platform — and lawmakers’ inboxes — with pleas to halt a bill that would force its Chinese owners to divest or face a ban in the U.S.

That effort to keep TikTok online has now attracted some unlikely backers, including Donald Trump.

A recap: Last week, a powerful House committee voted 50-0 to remove TikTok from U.S. app stores by Sept. 30 unless its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, sold its stake. A large contingent of Republicans and moderate Democrats see the app as a national security risk.

President Biden said on Friday that he’d sign the bill if it reaches his desk — even as his campaign has embraced the platform.

But Trump has potentially scrambled the political calculus in Washington. Starting last week, the former president has pushed back against a TikTok ban, arguing that such a move would strengthen Meta’s Facebook — the “true Enemy of the People!” (Remember that as president, Trump issued an executive order ordering ByteDance to divest its American assets.)

Trump’s 180 may have already weakened support for the bill. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a prominent China hawk, said on Sunday that he was “deeply conflicted” about the bill and was unsure how he’d vote on it.

There are a few reasons Trump may have changed his mind. Pro-Trump MAGA content “does very well on TikTok,” Alex Bruesewitz, a Republican strategist, told Axios. He added, without citing evidence, that “Meta is suppressing MAGA content on both Facebook and Instagram.”

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