Donald Trump Jr. joins TikTok rival Triller as ban looms
TikTok rival Triller has another Trump in its corner as it tries to take on the popular yet embattled Chinese-owned social media app.
Donald Trump Jr. on Friday joined Los Angeles-based Triller, posting a seven-minute video attacking TikTok for its ties to China as the president’s executive orders against the service loom. The latest strike at TikTok comes as the app is trying to orchestrate a sale of its U.S. assets before the administration’s deadline.
“I know there’s some outrage about [the TikTok ban] because people have liked the platform,” Trump Jr. said in the video. “But you know what? There’s an option that you can go to that’s an American company, that’s not saving your data, that’s not going to eventually weaponize it against your children.”
Trump Jr.’s alliance with Triller comes after his father, President Trump, signed an order last month that would bar TikTok’s parent company, China-based ByteDance, from doing business with U.S. companies starting Sept. 20. A second order would require ByteDance to divest its TikTok U.S. operations by Nov. 12. President Trump is already on Triller, which is owned by Hollywood producer Ryan Kavanaugh’s Proxima Media.
A representative for Triller declined to comment.
Trump administration officials have called TikTok a national security threat, accusing the company of funneling user data to the communist government in Beijing. TikTok has become increasingly popular in the U.S., especially among teens, through silly videos and viral dance crazes.
A TikTok spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. TikTok has said the U.S. government has provided no evidence to support its action. It has denied that it gives data to China, and says it wouldn’t do so if asked.
But Trump Jr., who has been one of his father’s most loyal political surrogates on the campaign trail, echoed those claims in his first video on Triller.
“When you have an app like TikTok, where the Chinese government could be turning on your kids’ camera, turning on your kids’ video, listening in, turning on their mic at any random time … this is something that could come back and haunt your kids forever,” Trump Jr. said.
Trump Jr.’s comments on TikTok tie together two key themes of Trump’s campaign against Democratic nominee Joe Biden — the administration’s hard line against China, and suspicion of online “cancel culture.” The Chinese government, he said, could use videos, photos and other information from young people to “exert influence” over them later in life.
“You could make a mistake at age 13, 14, 15. … All of a sudden, you’re running a company, you’re running for government, and our biggest geopolitical threat, China, could have thousands of hours of recorded conversation to use against you, to exert influence,” he added.
He also repeated the allegation that the Chinese government “lied to the world” about the danger of the coronavirus before it escalated into the current pandemic. China has denied withholding information about COVID-19.
Triller, founded in 2015 as a video editing service, has been seen as a marginal player in the competitive social video space until recent months. As Trump’s war against TikTok heated up, some TikTok influencers migrated to the service and downloads spiked. Its reach is still significantly smaller than TikTok, which has about 100 million users in the U.S.
Proxima bought Triller last year. Kavanaugh, a controversial Hollywood investor, is best known as the founder and former CEO of Relativity Media, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 after promising to bring “Moneyball”-style analytics to the movie industry.
Pressure is mounting for TikTok to find a buyer. Microsoft has been in talks to buy TikTok to give it a foothold in social media and boost its cloud computing business. Walmart last week confirmed it has joined Microsoft’s bid, which analysts say could help the retail giant compete with Amazon.com. Oracle Corp., founded by Larry Ellison, also has bid.
As the political strife hit its apex, TikTok’s CEO Kevin Mayer left the company three months after vacating a prominent position at Walt Disney Co. to take the job.