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Teenage Riot

joe biden with teen
The suggestion that young voters will revolt against Democrats continues to be taken at face value by pundits, with little evidence to support it. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
March 18, 2024

Among the many known unknowns swirling around the TikTok legislation racing through Congress is whether young people—socially isolated, digitally overstimulated, easily outraged but politically disengaged—will revolt against President Biden in November if he signs legislation banning the popular social media app from the United States.

You hear this sentiment often from the dozens of younger, progressive Democrats on Capitol Hill who oppose a ban, like New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a putative member of the Squad and former high school principal who has become one of TikTok’s loudest defenders in Congress. “TikTok is actually a platform where young voters have found community with each other,” Bowman said on MSNBC last week, after the House passed legislation that would force TikTok’s Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app or face a ban in the U.S. “What I’ve seen on TikTok is the depth of content, the depth of scholarship, that I haven’t seen on other platforms,” Bowman said, not mentioning the disinformation, conspiracy theories, A.I. fakery, and context-free “news” clips that continue to generate millions of views on the platform.