Trump joins TikTok and gains 3 million followers in two days

Donald Trump has garnered over three million followers in just two days on social media platform TikTok – the app he once tried to ban on national security grounds.

The decision to join the short video-sharing app is seen as an outreach to young Gen Z voters in his third bid for the White House. He is in a close race with Democratic incumbent Joe Biden ahead of the 5 November presidential election.

Trump on Saturday night posted a launch video on his account, which has the address @realdonaldtrump. It showed the 45th president greeting fans at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Newark, New Jersey. The video has over 56 million views.

“It’s an honor,” he said in the video, which now has over 56 million views. The video ends with Trump telling the camera: “That was a good walk-on, right?”

Trump said he would "use every tool available to speak directly with the American people..."

“We will leave no front undefended and this represents the continued outreach to a younger audience consuming pro-Trump and anti-Biden content,” Trump's spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement about the campaign’s decision to join the platform.

“There’s no place better than a UFC event to launch president Trump’s Tik Tok, where he received a hero’s welcome and thousands of fans cheered him on,” he added.

Mr Biden's election campaign joined TikTok in February and has amassed over 340,000 followers. The campaign has tried to work with influencers despite the president signing a bill that would ban the app, used by 170 million Americans, if its Chinese owner ByteDance fails to divest it.

ByteDance is challenging in courts the law that requires it to sell TikTok by next January or face a ban. The White House wants to see Chinese-based ownership ended on national security grounds.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Communications Commission have warned that ByteDance could share user data such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers with China’s government.

TikTok has argued it will not share US user data with the Chinese government and that it has taken substantial measures to protect the privacy of its users.

Trump's attempt to ban TikTok in 2020 when he was president was blocked by the courts. He said in March that the platform was a national security threat but also that a ban on it would hurt some young people and only strengthen Meta Platforms' Facebook, which he has strongly criticised.

“Frankly, there are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” the Republican candidate had told CNBC.

Trump already has an active social media presence with more than 87 million followers on X and over seven million followers on his own platform, Truth Social, where he posts almost daily.

On Saturday Trump received an enthusiastic welcome at the fight at Newark’s Prudential Center, where the crowd broke into chants of “We love Trump” and another insulting Mr Biden with an expletive.

It was Trump’s first public outing since a jury in New York found him guilty Thursday on 34 charges of falsifying business records as part of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election by covering up hush money payments made to a porn actor who claimed she and Trump had sex.

He has maintained he did nothing wrong and plans to appeal the verdict. Trump will be sentenced on 11 July.

Additional reporting by agencies