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Once past the embarrassment that the U.S. political class is so fearful of TikTok, and once past the shame that the political class would express its TikTok fears through brazen efforts to expropriate it from its rightful owners, it’s then possible to ask the question about whether it’s a political propaganda site meant to influence American thought and voting patterns as its critics oddly assert. To be fair, merely thinking about TikTok as a site for propaganda and political influencing only succeeds insofar as it fuels more embarrassment.

To see why, readers might contemplate a frequent lament about voter turnout in the United States: it’s light. According to a Pew Research Center piece from 2022, the U.S. ranks 31st out of 49 countries when it comes to turnout within the voting age population for national elections. Americans just aren’t that interested in politics.

Where it becomes even more interesting is on the matter of U.S. turnout among voters aged 18-29. According to data from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), turnout among the 18-29 cohort in 2022 was 23%. Stop and think about that with TikTok well in mind. Hopefully youth indifference to politics and voting turns on a light bulb in readers’ heads about what kind of venue TikTok is, and isn’t. If it were a site focused on politics and political views, it wouldn’t be a political prop for politicians like Rep. Mike Gallagher. And it wouldn’t be a political prop because it would have very few users. If you’re confused, just look at voter turnout among young people in the U.S.

The surest sign people come to TikTok for reasons unrelated to politics can be found in its extraordinary, Facebook and Snapchat busting popularity with young people. They’re just not very politically engaged such that a site allegedly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence thought would never have much traction among young people.

It brings to mind a story of one of Victoria Beckham’s kids asking her to dance with him on video. His intent with the video was to upload it to TikTok as a way of attracting thousands more followers. Which requires a brief pause, followed by a question: what if TikTok were in fact a site not just controlled by the CCP, but one intent on indoctrinating young Americans into the communist fold? If so, there would still be no calls from yours truly to ban it. No chance. If speech is protected in the U.S., then so must possible sources of speech be protected. Of course, if TikTok were an organ for the CCP to promote communism, then readers can rest assured that there would be no calls from paranoid politicians to ban it on account of the near certainty that they never would have heard of it.

It can’t be stressed enough that while Americans should be free to patronize any social media site they want for political information and thought, the empirical truth is that Americans in general, and young Americans in particular, don’t care much about politics. Which requires another question: quick, name the politics-focused websites in the U.S. that have over 100 million users. Tick tock, tick tock…TikTok is said to have 170 million users, and the fact that it does is the surest sign that contra its critics, it’s not a politics or propaganda site.

At which point 170 million users screams something else beyond the empirical reality that political sites in the U.S. don’t engender 170 million user passion among youths. Neither do government run websites or social media venues. Yes, as is said in this column over and over again, TikTok’s immense popularity is the surest sign that it’s not run by the “commies.” Get it?

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, President of the Parkview Institute, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book, set for release in April of 2024 and co-authored with Jack Ryan, is Bringing Adam Smith Into the American Home: A Case Against Homeownership

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