Trump ads on Facebook claiming 'TikTok is spying on you' reached up to 5 million Americans and targeted younger voters
- In the five days between July 17 and July 21, accounts tied to
Donald Trump's campaign posted 450 separate adverts on TikTokfor spying on users and siphoning data to China.
- Facebook's transparency data showed that the campaign spent tens of thousands of dollars on the ads, perhaps as much as $80,000.
- The most-viewed ad posted by the Trump campaign is a 30-second video that claims "TikTok is spying on you." It reached at least 400,000 Americans.
- TikTok has denied all the allegations made in the ads.
Donald Trump really hates TikTok. If you didn't get the hint from his multiple threats to ban the video sharing app, then you only need look at your Facebook or Instagram feed.
In the five days from July 17 to July 21, three accounts tied to Trump's campaign — his official Facebook and Instagram pages, his vice president Mike Pence's official pages, and the pages of Team Trump, an organizing committee — posted 450 separate adverts lambasting TikTok, claiming it spies on users and siphons data to China. TikTok has denied all the allegations made in the ads, but declined to comment for this story.
Analysis of transparency data published by Facebook shows that the Trump campaign spent tens of thousands, perhaps as much as $80,000 (Facebook's data gives wide ranges for amounts spent) on the ads. They were seen by up to 5.5 million Americans and were mostly targeted at Trump-voting states, including Texas and Florida.
As of July 22, the most-viewed ad posted by the Trump campaign is a 30-second video that replaces the TikTok logo with an Asian man looking through binoculars. "TikTok is spying on you," the man says. The Trump Make America Great Again Committee paid up to $3,000 to reach at least 400,000 Americans from Trump's Facebook page, the transparency data shows. More than half of viewers were women aged between 18 and 34, the data shows. Other ads targeted men in the same age group.
Tristan Hotham, founder of the Social Media Research Centre, and an expert on Facebook political
Or, the ads might simply reflect Trump's growing hostility towards China, he says. "To go so hard into this either means it's electorally prescient, or Trump just hates TikTok and it feeds into this bigger narrative of China and the second Cold War. I'm not sure which one has more power within that logic. It probably doesn't matter."
On whether the ads ring true, experts are split. Cybersecurity experts have downplayed the idea that TikTok operates differently to other apps. One claim central to the Trump ad campaign, that TikTok was caught copying data from users' cell phone clipboards, is also true of the LinkedIn and Fox News apps.
But Andreas Fulda, a China expert at the University of Nottingham, says the Trump campaign should be "commended for highlighting the potential risks emanating from Chinese apps like TikTok."
"There can not be such a thing as an apolitical Chinese app," he says. "In terms of its functionality TikTok is a very popular app, but from a privacy perspective this Chinese app is highly problematic."
A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider it has removed an unspecified number of the ads "for violating our policies against misrepresenting company branding and depicting features that don't exist on our platforms."
True or not, the claims in Donald Trump's ads carry weight.
Trump's Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited the UK on July 22 to press politicians to ramp up pressure on TikTok. Right-wing members of the ruling Conservative party, including former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith, obliged, calling for the app to be banned for unspecified national security reasons.
Whether Trump's claims manage to convert skeptics or not, the ads mark an escalation of a spat between the president and the video-sharing app that began more than two years ago, when the app was called Musical.ly.
Between March and May 2018, Musical.ly's Facebook page spent thousands of dollars on five ads on Facebook and Instagram, seen by around 165,000 Americans.
The message of the ads? "Donald Trump doesn't use musical.ly. Join now."
- Durjoy Datta tweets about Paytm UPI LITE making payments faster and easier, fellow author Ravinder Singh responds
- OnePlus Nord CE 3 leaks ahead of launch – specs, expected launch date and more
- JPMorgan Chase thought it had $1.3 million worth of nickel stored in a warehouse. A closer examination revealed bags of stones.
- Meet Rekha Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the top Indian entrant in 2023 M3M Hurun Global Rich List
- Cyrus Poonawalla’s wealth grows as his health empire remains unlisted
- Adani Airports following investments as per plans submitted to govt: CEO
- Chinese leader Xi Jinping departs Russia but fails to achieve breakthrough in Ukraine conflict
- Healthcare, consumer goods minted the most Indian dollar billionaires