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Commentary

Trump Tried to Ban TikTok, Now Cartels Are Using It to Recruit American Teens to Smuggle Migrants

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Last year, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with the blessing of then-President Donald Trump, led an effort to ban the popular social media app TikTok in the U.S., culminating in an Aug. 6 executive order aimed at accomplishing that very goal.

According to the Brookings Institution, the catalysts for the ban were concerns regarding data security and data privacy.

TikTok, which, at the time, boasted over 100 million users in the U.S. alone, was and is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The company, founded in 2012, is known to act as a mouthpiece for Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

As such, the Trump administration was — rather reasonably — concerned that young Americans were unwittingly handing over their information to the CCP, which could then be used for nefarious purposes.

Pompeo even warned, according to CNN, that users should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

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Unfortunately, the previous administration’s efforts to uphold our national security did not survive in court. NPR reported in December that U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols halted the executive order, the second judge to do so.

In his order, Nichols wrote that the Trump administration had failed to “adequately consider an obvious and reasonable alternative before banning TikTok,” declared the order to be “arbitrary and capricious” and found that the order was a policy that would cause TikTok “irreparable harm.”

While it’s hard to argue whether an order depriving TikTok of 100 million customers would be harmful to the company’s interests, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny that TikTok is harmful to the nation’s interests – though not for the reason the Trump administration argued in 2020.

Fox News reported on Wednesday that TikTok is now a weapon of choice for Mexican drug cartels (also called “coyotes” in this context), that are using the platform to post notices to recruit teens and young adults to drive smuggled illegal immigrants deep into U.S. territory. In exchange, the cartels offered the teens as much as $3,000.

Is the illegal immigration crisis a serious threat to American civilians?

“Images obtained by Fox News shows the ads cartels are using on social media apps like TikTok, where they offer more than $3,000 a ride for teens and young adults to come drive smuggled migrants into the U.S. when they reach the border,” Fox reported.

The recruited drivers’ job then is to take the illegal immigrants to a drop-off location where they are picked up by other cartel operatives and taken to hidden locations.

“Need 2 or 3 drivers to go through a checkpoint,” one notice said, according to Fox.

“Got another 6 left, already crossed. Lemme know ASAP for that easy cash,” stated another, Fox reported.

A third notice, as seen in the photo Fox posted with its story, offered $700 to transfer people from the south Texas town of Falfurrias to Houston.

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According to the Fox report, which cited anonymous sources, some American kids have taken the bait, often using their parents’ SUVs to do the job of smuggling illegal aliens. One mother, a nurse, broke down in tears when authorities notified her exactly what her child was doing, the Fox report states.

While it’s true that coyotes conduct similar activities on all social media platforms, TikTok’s popularity with America’s youth makes the platform of particular concern. Many members of my generation have not yet developed wisdom, and don’t understand the seriousness of the activities they are engaging in.

While it’s entirely possible that the people American teens are transporting are merely seeking a better life, there’s no guarantee of drivers’ safety, for starters. And by engaging in this activity, they’re becoming involved in criminal activity.

Banning TikTok is no longer a simple data privacy concern. Now, the platform is actively being used to recruit kids into organized crime syndicates, as well as contributing to the border crisis.

For the good of the country, President Biden should take a page out of the Trump administration’s book and renew efforts to ban TikTok.

What’s the chance of that happening? Effectively zero.

Did you know that The Western Journal now publishes some content in Spanish as well as English, for international audiences? Click here to read this article on The Western Journal en Español!

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Garion Frankel is the senior policy advisor for the Texas Federation of College Republicans. He enjoys and has published articles and academic works on public policy, philosophy and political theory.
Garion Frankel is the senior policy advisor for the Texas Federation of College Republicans. He enjoys and has published articles and academic works on public policy, philosophy and political theory.
Languages Spoken
English, some Spanish




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