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Donald Trump Comes Out Against TikTok Ban in Bizarre Reversal

Donald Trump appeared to come out in defense of TikTok, the social media platform facing a potential ban by Congress, in a flurry of posts late Thursday on his social media platform Truth Social. The platform, it should be noted, experienced a widespread outage as the former president attempted to live-tweet President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech.

“If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their business. I don’t want Facebook, who cheated in the last Election, doing better. They are a true Enemy of the People!” Trump wrote on Thursday night.

It’s unclear why Trump called Facebook an “enemy of the people,” a phrase that he usually saves for mainstream media outlets not named Fox News. And it doesn’t appear Trump has ever used the nickname “Zuckerschmuck” for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg before, which, according to a simple Google search, looks like the name of a real online store centered around diabetes.

Trump’s opposition to a TikTok ban would be a reversal of policy for the former president, who signed an executive order in the summer of 2020 that would’ve forced TikTok’s parent company in China, ByteDance, to completely divest of the social media site or face a ban on U.S. soil.

Trump’s executive order, which was held up in federal court before being reversed when Biden took office in 2021, called TikTok’s existence a “national emergency” for the U.S. that could threaten the country’s security and economy.

“This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party, such as when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” Trump’s executive order read in a line that’s particularly ironic, given Trump’s embrace of many such conspiracy theories.

The executive order also featured claims of censorship on TikTok by the Chinese Communist Party, especially around, “protests in Hong Kong and China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.” Because who doesn’t love “Muslim minorities” more than Trump, right?

Why is Trump reversing course on TikTok? Who knows why Trump does anything? Maybe he’s making the calculation that it helps his own social media platform in some way. Or maybe it’s because Trump reportedly saw at least $5.5 million flowing to his businesses from Chinese sources while he was president. Could it have anything to do with the fact that Republican mega-donor Jeff Yass, a billionaire with a big investment in ByteDance, recently had a friendly phone call with Trump, according to Politico?

Better yet, maybe Trump wants to delay a ban until he hypothetically returns to the White House, a tactic he’s already deployed to sink a bipartisan immigration reform deal because he wants to campaign on the issue of a “broken border.” It really could be anything, as far as we know.

But Congress is moving ahead with a potential ban on TikTok, with a bipartisan bill expected to make its way to the House for a vote very soon. The bill already cleared a House committee in a unanimous vote of 50-0. Much like Trump’s original executive order, the bill would force ByteDance to sell the platform and, if the company refused, would allow Congress to ban the site altogether.

The bill has mobilized some of TikTok’s estimated 150 million American users, with Congressional offices reportedly getting flooded on Thursday by calls imploring members of Congress not to ban the app. TikTok even alerted users in the U.S. about the potential ban on Thursday, a move that made politicians quite angry.

President Biden has come out in support of the effort by Congress to get ByteDance to divest and the White House has claimed the president only killed Trump’s executive order to conduct its own security review while it was tied up in federal court. But it will be interesting to see if the courts agree that Congress has the right to ban TikTok, a move that the company says conflicts with the free speech rights of Americans.

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs,” a TikTok spokesperson told Gizmodo on Thursday.

The House vote hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it sure seems like we’re going to find out sooner rather than later if TikTok has a future in the U.S. Incredibly, Trump wants TikTok to be allowed to continue as usual. At least for now.

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