Donald Trump’s TikTok account hits 5m followers after four days despite his calls to ban the platform

In 2020, at the end of his term in the White House, Donald Trump unsuccessfully tried to force TikTok off the top app stores and have its Chinese parent company divest its ownership.

He must be glad now that those efforts were challenged in court and dropped by the Biden administration. The former president joined TikTok on Saturday and has quickly garnered 5.2m followers, blowing past the Biden campaign’s roughly 357,000 followers.

In a statement to The Independent, a Trump campaign spokesperson defended the choice to join the app, which Mr Trump has previously warned comes with national security concerns for its ties to China.

“We will leave no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” spokesperson Steven Cheung said.

It was also hard to miss the timing of the new account, just days after Donald Trump was found guilty in a New York court of falsifying business records as part of a hush money scheme during the 2016 election, marking the first time a former US president has been convicted on criminal charges.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump said “there’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad” with TikTok, but said he preferred to join the app because it would mean less attention on Facebook, which he dubbed “an enemy of the people.”

“If China wants anything from [TikTo], they will give it, so that’s a national security risk [that] goes up,” he told CNBC. “But when I look at it, I’m not looking to make Facebook double the size. And if you ban TikTok, Facebook and others — but mostly Facebook — will be a big beneficiary, and I think Facebook has been very busy.”

(Facebook, which was instrumental in the 2016 Trump campaign’s win, later banned Trump for more than two years in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, reinstating him in early 2023.)

Even though both campaigns are now on TikTok, the social media app’s political future in the US is on shaky ground.

The Senate has already passed a bill to ban the app in the US if ByteDance doesn’t sell TikTok within the next year, and the president is expected to sign such legislation if it makes it past the House.

While Trump is soaring on TikTok, his own social media, Truth Social, is struggling.

Its parent company Trump Media and Technology Group saw a six per cent share drop after the hush money verdict, and TMTG reported a $327.6m first-quarter loss this month.