CLIENT NEWS: Is 'gay TikTok' safe from Trump?
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
Some queer TikTok creators fear the community they helped build on the app may be in danger in the faceoff between the company and the administration.
Steven King, a popular content creator on the social media platform TikTok, said he stumbled across the video-sharing app by accident early last year.
"I saw an advertisement for what I thought was an app that could put your selfies into motion" he said. "I downloaded it, and two days later I was posting my first video."
King, 47, started by sharing videos about his day, his relationship with his husband and what clothes he wanted to wear. They must have resonated because his following started to grow — all the way to 3 million as of this week.
"The amount of people that are seeing my face, that are engaging with these videos I'm creating," he said, "really put me in awe."
King, now a verified creator on the platform, said he knew he was onto something when the comment sections on his page started to fill up with questions about coming out, LGBTQ relationships and confidence in one's own identity.
"When I joined TikTok, there was definitely the sense that it was a young-adult app," he said, and "I knew right away that these were teenagers asking, and I had a responsibility."
So in February 2019, King, who lives in Arizona, began doing livestreams where he would answer questions from his followers — many of them LGBTQ youth and young adults — and creating videos to share his advice and aspects of his life story, from his 24-year relationship to his sobriety.
"The traumas that we suffer from as we grow have a huge impact on who we are as adults," King said. "To be able to empathize and put myself back in the position that these teenagers are in, knowing where I came from and how I made it through, I just had to give back that information."
With the help of the algorithm on its "For You" page, which feeds users curated content based on their previous interactions and "likes," TikTok has helped LGBTQ content creators and audiences find one another on the platform. But some fear the queer community they helped foster on the social network may be in danger amid the face-off between TikTok's Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and the Trump administration.
On July 31, following previous concerns over data privacy on the app, President Donald Trump announced aboard Air Force One that "as far as TikTok is concerned, we're banning them from the United States." That same day, reports surfaced about Microsoft being in talks to purchase the app from its Chinese parent company (Oracle subsequently expressed interest in the platform).
Then on Aug. 6, the White House issued an executive order barring U.S. companies from doing business with ByteDance. The order, which is set to go into effect next month, would be a major blow to TikTok if it is not sold to a U.S. company, according to NBC News' previous reporting. TikTok responded to Trump's executive order this week with a lawsuit claiming that the administration had failed to follow due process when it ordered the ban, and that it never provided evidence that TikTok posed a security threat.
August 27, 2020