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White House says no change to official TikTok policy after Biden campaign joins platform amid security concerns

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</i><br/>
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

By Donald Judd and Michael Williams, CNN

Washington (CNN) — The White House on Monday said there are no changes regarding the administration’s long-standing security concerns over TikTok after the President Joe Biden made his campaign debut on the platform Sunday night.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday the ban on the platform’s use on government devices “remains the case today.” He referred questions over the video to the president’s reelection campaign, which posted it.

“I don’t want to get into too much of the national security, technical reasons behind that, but it does have to do with concerns about the preservation of data and the potential misuse of that data and privacy information by foreign actors,” Kirby told reporters.

In a follow-up exchange with Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary said she was not aware the campaign planned to launch a TikTok account ahead of Sunday.

“No – I am very, very careful, as the White House press secretary … and so I do not communicate with the campaign on any strategy or anything like that. … I did not know; I knew as you all did,” she said.

In the TikTok, which was posted during the Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, Biden answered a series of light-hearted Super Bowl-themed questions.

Asked to choose between the game and commercials, Biden picked the game. He responded “Mama Kelce” when asked to choose between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and his brother, Jason, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Biden jokingly said he would “get in trouble if I told you” when asked whether he rigged the game for the Chiefs, referencing a popular conspiracy theory involving Travis Kelce’s girlfriend, superstar musician Taylor Swift.

And in the final round of questioning of “Trump or Biden,” he laughed and replied, “Are you kidding? Biden.”

The TikTok debut was just one effort made by the campaign to dip its toes into meme culture and court young voters Sunday night. Following the Chiefs’ 25-22 overtime win, Biden’s campaign posted a “Dark Brandon” meme with the caption: “Just like we drew it up,” referencing the conspiracy theory that the Biden administration worked in tandem with Swift to rig the game and swing the 2024 election in Biden’s favor.

But there are security concerns around the popular video app, which is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company.

TikTok doesn’t operate in China, but since the Chinese government enjoys significant leverage over businesses under its jurisdiction, the theory goes that ByteDance – and thus indirectly, TikTok – could be forced to cooperate with a broad range of security activities, including possibly the transfer of TikTok data.

The US government has said it’s worried China could use its national security laws to access the significant amount of personal information that TikTok, like most social media applications, collects from its US users.

To date, the US government has provided no specific evidence that the Chinese government has accessed US TikTok user data. TikTok has moved to consolidate US user data on US soil through a program it calls Project Texas.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations have been somewhat aligned on their national security concerns pertaining to TikTok. During his administration, Trump threatened to ban the platform if it did not divest from its Chinese owners.

In 2022, Biden signed legislation prohibiting TikTok on federal government devices.

The Biden campaign will take “advanced safety precautions” with its devices and will incorporate a “sophisticated security protocol to ensure security,” a campaign adviser said, while noting the “campaign’s presence is independent and apart from the ongoing” Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States review into TikTok.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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