A teenage army of TikTok users have threatened a “war” against President Donald Trump over calls for the social media music app to be banned.
Mr Trump has said his administration was “looking at” banning the hit Chinese-headquartered lip-syncing and short-video platform over the spread of coronavirus in the US, due to Covid-19’s Wuhan origin.
US officials also claim people’s data could flow back to the Beijing regime, which the tech company denies.
Now, an army of teens is mobilising to save what they describe as the virtual “clubhouse” for Generation Z.
Retaliatory tactics have included flooding Apple’s App Store with negative reviews for Trump’s official 2020 presidential campaign app.
Activists hope to push the Trump app so far down Apple’s rankings it might be deleted, although the App Store only deletes software the violates guidelines or becomes obsolete.
However, young campaigners on TikTok say they have already enjoyed some tactical success, after joining forces with K-pop fans to sign-up for a Trump rally in Tulsa only to leave seats empty, although this was denied by the Trump campaign as the cause of low turnout and said “phoney ticket requests” were weeded out.
Nineteen-year-old TikTokker Yori Blacc told Bloomberg: “For Gen Z and Millennials, TikTok is our clubhouse and Trump threatened it.
“If you’re going to mess with us, we will mess with you.”
Another teen user wrote on Twitter said that if “Trump bans TikTok he better prepare for war”.
It comes after several hours of Twitter hysteria on Thursday night when the service went out of action for users around the world. who saw view counts and all-important ‘likes’ on videos reset to zero.
More than 17,000 users reported problems with the service, which is used by some as a means of income.
TikTok blamed problems on “higher traffic than normal” on US servers.
The app, which allows users to create 15-second videos with music soundtracks, has more than two billion global users.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Americans should not download it, claiming their private data could fall into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”, a claim strongly denied by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance.
Mr Pompeo has banned state department employees from downloading the app.
Bytedance is reportedly considering moving its headquarters from China and “evaluating changes to the corporate structure” in its battle over security fears.
This week, the company stopped operation in Hong Kong after tough new Chinese laws governing oversight of social media were imposed.
Even though ByteDance is based in Beijing, its international app is not allowed in mainland China for not meeting its government’s strict censorship rules.
India has already banned TikTok, which is among 59 Chinese-connected apps, also including WeChat, that the Delhi government claimed was “prejudicial” to its “sovereignty and integrity”.
TikTok said in a statement: “TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the US.
“We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users.
“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”