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White House releases video created using app owned by parent company TikTok

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden threatens to potentially ban TikTok in the United States on national security grounds, he has embraced another popular app owned by the same Chinese company.

Last week, the official White House Instagram account posted a flashy video of Biden and former President Barack Obama. In it, a photo of the two presidents, awash in sparkling confetti, cartwheels across the screen as upbeat electronic music plays.

The video, which garnered nearly 57,000 likes and over 6,000 comments, was created using the CapCut app, which, like TikTok, is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

According to a review from NBC News, the White House video is frame-by-frame exactly like a popular CapCut model, although the company’s watermark is not visible and the White House version appears slightly enlarged. It is possible to download the template without the watermark. The music – an audio file called “Happy With You” from the TikTok Official Sound Studio – is the same music that accompanies the model.

The White House’s use of CapCut even as TikTok is banned from US government devices underscores the tension between Biden’s professed national security concerns and his political and communications strategies, which will likely only grow as he is expected to run for re-election with a strong social media strategy to reach as many Americans as possible.

The Biden administration recently suggested it could ban the app if its Chinese owners refuse to sell their shares in the company, NBC News reported. (A TikTok spokesperson said in a statement at the time that while “protecting national security is the goal, divestment does not solve the problem.”)

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on Wednesday whether Biden had the same concerns about CapCut, which creates templates for users to use on video-oriented social media platforms, as he does. fact about TikTok, a video-sharing app. .

“You’ll always want to take a look at the national security issues that may be prevalent there, particularly around the transfer of data, as well as privacy issues and just secrecy issues,” Kirby said during the White House press briefing. “I don’t want to go beyond what we’ve said in the past here,” he added, noting Biden’s concerns about TikTok.

The disconnect between Biden’s national security and political concerns when it comes to TikTok has been visible for months. He has repeatedly hosted TikTok creators and influencers at the White House in an attempt to build support for a range of issues – from defending Ukraine against Russian aggression and the inflation to aid Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.

Biden also recently appeared in a celebrity video on TikTok.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on whether CapCut was downloaded to government devices. But usually, to create a video using a CapCut template, the app needs to be downloaded on a user’s device and access to photos and videos on that device needs to be granted.

In CapCut’s privacy policy, it states that it collects information from users, such as their location, age, gender, and usage information. It also states that they “may collect information about you if you interact with the Platform without creating an Account”.

CapCut has had 86 million downloads in the United States since its launch in April 2020 and around seven million daily users in the United States, according to Apptopia, a digital data collection company. As of this month, CapCut is also the number one photo and video app downloaded in the United States, according to SensorTower, a company that tracks digital data.

By contrast, TikTok now claims to have more than 150 million regular users in the United States.

The template used by the official White House Instagram account has been used more than 1.1 million times, according to CapCut’s public metrics, which are available to users of the app.

The popularity of this particular model also highlights the ways in which CapCut and TikTok are increasingly overlapping. The audio is from TikTok, and “Happy With You” has been used for the soundtrack of at least 188,000 posts, according to internal metrics that show users what’s popular on the app. The model used by the White House is also a favorite on TikTok right now, powered in part by some of the app’s creators with a large following.

The video created by White House CapCut was posted the same day the TikTok CEO was at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, grilled by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, largely out of fear that the Chinese government could exploit Americans’ use of the app for espionage.

“Just letting everyone know that the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land,” the White House Instagram post said.


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