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Young Canadians are using TikTok to tap into the federal election, but will it count at the polls?

 Gurkiran double-checks her ballot with husband NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh vote at Burnaby Neighbourhood House in Burnaby, BC, October 13, 2019.
Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu double-checks her ballot with husband NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh vote at Burnaby Neighbourhood House in Burnaby, BC, October 13, 2019. - Arlen Redekop

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh takes to Tiktok to woo social savvy voters

Who tweeted to whom is yesterday's news. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was the buzz of TikTok last night when he posted a short clip with him lip synching to "Choices" by E-40. 

TikTok - formerly Musical.ly - is a popular social app that allows users to combine video editing, filters and soundtracks to create short, sharable  videos - from the sophisticated to the cringe-inducing. Memes - combinations of songs and videos that are copied with a few changes - spread quickly. 

Over the past year, the best and worst TikTok videos have been shared on other social media platforms (and beyond - that’s where Old Town Road began it’s climb to glory) as Singh’s has done with its viral momentum - even getting attention from political rivals.

As of 10:30 a.m. Oct. 18, the clip had 118,400 likes and more than 5,000 comments on TikTok. 

Singh’s TikTok profile only has three videos, but he has upwards of 56,000 fans and 164,000 "hearts."

Both Singh and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have received celebrity attention on Twitter, with musicians Rihanna and Drake following the NDP leader and former U.S. President Barack Obama giving his tweet endorsement of Trudeau earlier this week.

You don’t need to download the app to cruise around the #elxn43 hashtag, where you’ll find that other federal party leaders have been the subject of TikToks from fans, critics and analysts among TikTok users, but Singh seems to be the only leader with his own account. 

One NDP candidate in Alberta does seem to have embraced the platform. Natasha Fryzuk, who is running in Battle River-Crowfoot in Alberta and has a few self-deferential TikToks posted about her campaign.  

There may be reason for politicians - and anyone - to be cautious about using the app. Earlier this month, a U.S. senator asked for a national security review of the app’s owner - Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. 

According to Reuters, Senator Marco Rubio said “Chinese-owned apps 'are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party.'"

Tensions between Canada and China have been high this year, made even more tense by Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in B.C. and China’s detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. 

There have also been privacy concerns with the app in the U.S. and U.K., particularly with regard to children’s data. 

Whether TikTok viralty has any impact on voters turning out for the NDP  - or at all - on Monday is doubtful, but it's a clever and cheap way to reach Canadians under 40 who are now a substantial number of eligible voters. 


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