Second, the Trump campaign’s high expectations were fueled by an organized online prank on TikTok, which aimed to get tens of thousands to register for the rally without ever intending to show up.
TikTok is a short-form video app that’s become hugely popular among teenagers. But more important for its impact on American politics, TikTok is owned by a Chinese internet company called ByteDance. The company is facing a national security review in the United States over evidence the app sends data to China, according to the New York Times.
Technology analyst Ben Thompson explained on his Dithering podcast that the mysterious algorithm TikTok uses to promote videos is a “black box,” meaning it’s not really known how posts are deemed popular so they are shown to more users. If the TikTok algorithm is open to manipulation by the Chinese government, it’s entirely possible there was nothing organic about the effort to encourage fake registrations to the Trump rally.