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Biden inviting TikTok influencers to White House even ask Chinese social media giant steals US citizens' data

By Sarah May
April 19, 2023

With the debate over banning Chinese-owned app TikTok continuing across the country, a group of Republican lawmakers is now urging the Biden administration to cease its practice of aligning with and inviting influencers from the social media platform to the White House, as the Daily Mail reports.

The demand was led by Republican Rep. Mark Alford (MO-04) and co-signed by 15 GOP colleagues, all of whom deem the administration's actions in this realm to be a “serious national security threat at an increasingly dangerous time.”

Influencers' clout grows

As Axios reported earlier this month, the White House is ramping up its efforts to coordinate with TikTok influencers and other independent content creators as a means to bolster the administration's agenda ahead of President Joe Biden's anticipated re-election campaign.

According to the outlet, the digital strategy team at the White House is endeavoring to link up with a host of social media influencers believed to reach the types of young and suburban voters with whom it may otherwise be difficult to connect.

Jen O'Malley Dillon, deputy chief of staff at the White House, explained, “We're trying to reach young people, but also moms who use different platforms to get information and climate activists and people whose way of getting information is digital.”

To that end, as Axios noted, hundreds of independent content creators have received an unusual degree of access to the White House in recent months, and the administration is reportedly moving in the direction of providing those influences with their own briefing room.

Hypocrisy alleged

For some observers, however, the notion that the administration is cultivating TikTok influencers to assist with its communication efforts comes across as extraordinarily hypocritical, given that the president has called on the platform's owners to sell the company to an entity that is not subject to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party or face a ban in the United States.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was recently asked about the apparent contradiction by Margaret Brennan of CBS News, as Fox News noted.

“We showed a video of the president on TikTok from a video shot by a celebrity inside the White House. So for the 150 million Americans who use this app, how do you say to them, sorry, we're going to take it away?” Brennan asked, adding that the entire incident evinced hypocrisy.

Kirby replied, “It's not on government devices,” prompting Brennan to laugh and point out that the video was “filmed on government property.”

Ongoing entanglements

Collaboration between the Biden White House and a cadre of TikTok influencers is not an especially new phenomenon being deployed in the run up to the 2024 campaign but has been a regular feature for quite some time.

As The Hill reported last year, the White House invited roughly 30 social media creators – including many who favor TikTok – for a briefing on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Evidence of the status afforded the influencers was the fact that the briefing was led by then-press secretary Jen Psaki and a top representative of the National Security Council.

Last fall, a group of more than 20 social media influencers received invitations to a South Lawn celebration of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, further underscoring their clout at the White House, as NPR noted, and Biden also hosted TikTok transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney for an Oval Office sit-down, as the Daily Mail noted separately.

“Extremely irresponsible”

In light of the increasing credibility and importance the administration appears to now be assigning an array of TikTok influencers, Alford sent a letter to White House counsel Stuart Delery urging that the pattern cease.

“This poses a serious national security threat at an increasingly dangerous time as China continues its military aggression towards Taiwan and economic coercion across the globe,” Alford's letter stated.

The communication continued, “This extremely irresponsible action is a blatant and severe national security threat that will only empower the espionage efforts of one of our greatest adversaries” and added that inviting TikTok creators to the White House to produce content is akin to “essentially inviting and promoting CCP infiltration into one of our most restricted spaces.”

Alford and the Republicans who signed onto his sentiments suggested that Delery coordinate with the Defense Department and the Federal Communications Commission to halt the aforementioned plans to mobilize an influencer army and requested a response to the request by month's end. Whether the White House will give any meaningful consideration to the concerns raised, however, only time will tell.