Trump holds first campaign rally since virus erupted
Trump holds first campaign rally since virus erupted

Why TikTok kids messing with Trump should cause concern

The year 2020 promised flying cars, robot butlers and hoverboards and instead delivered fire, floods, pestilence and worldwide unrest.

Having this as a formative year must be pretty confronting.

There's no Wonder Years reboot to be had unless you imagine Kevin Arnold losing Winnie Cooper to coronavirus, his brother becoming a gun-toting, camo-wearing vigilante, and his best mate Paul turning into Marilyn Manson for real.

But if you're worried about the kids of today, you might be worrying for little reason.

They're adapting. They've got opinions. And they're finding new ways to be heard.

If you believe the Gen Z posts on TikTok, for example, they've already embarrassed US President Donald Trump on the world stage.

His re-election campaign expected 800,000 people to attend the first mid-pandemic rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the weekend. Instead, only 6200 people showed up and an outdoor 'overflow' event was cancelled.

What was going on? Ask a TikTok kid.


Hundreds claimed to have reserved tickets to the event with zero intention of attending. Many, true to the platform, performed a special victory dance to celebrate their achievement.

A veteran Republican campaign strategist revealed on Twitter that his 16-year-old daughter "and her friends in Park City Utah have hundreds of tickets … You have been rolled by America's teens".

The US woman with the idea behind the campaign, Mary Jo Laupp, was older than most who participated at 51, but she says young users made her TikTok post viral and cross platforms.

Keen participants on Facebook and Snapchat took up the challenge and, as she told CNN, "K-Pop stans jumped on from Twitter and when they get involved you know it's getting serious".

It sounds ridiculous - like an errant plot point from a Stephen King novel - but fans of Korean pop are earning a serious reputation for making an impact on society.

Young, tech-savvy, and ready to support the anti-racism stance of their favourite bands, they know how to work a hashtag.

Earlier this month, when the Black Lives Matter movement risked being shouted down by racist comments on Twitter, they mobilised, posting their own content under #whitelivesmatter and swamping competing messages.

Fans of K-pop, which includes girlband Pinkblack, are becoming notorious for retaliation. Picture: supplied
Fans of K-pop, which includes girlband Pinkblack, are becoming notorious for retaliation. Picture: supplied

On May 31, when the Dallas Police Department called for users to submit videos of "illegal protest activity," K-Pop fans uploaded clips of their favourite bands instead.

The app was overwhelmed. It was pulled the next day due to "technical difficulties".

This movement, of course, has the potential to be massively problematic too. Trolling election campaigns has been seen before - by the Russians using Facebook in 2016, according US research.

And academics I've spoken to say we should all brace for more targeted disinformation in future campaigns. In the wrong hands, with the wrong messages, delivered without moderation, they have the potential to undermine the democratic process.

For the time being, though, seeing young people find a voice through technology is pretty inspirational.

In an age when generational infighting has devolved to heckling Millennials for being entitled Harry Potter fans, Gen Xers for being "Karens," and Boomers for forever wrecking the property market for anyone else, it's heartening to see Gen Z stepping up to fight racism and political causes close to their hearts.

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson is News Corp Australia's national technology editor.



Originally published as Why TikTok kids messing with Trump should cause concern