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TikTok users are trying to tank Donald Trump's town hall ratings

Trump and Joe Biden have town hall events airing at the same time on Thursday. Some TikTok users want Biden's ratings to tower over Trump's.

Jim Watson/Getty Images

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

The second US presidential debate, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, was scheduled for Thursday, but Trump's pulling out of the virtual showdown put the kibosh on that. Instead, the two candidates are holding their own town hall events, where they're fielding questions posed to them by moderators and a live audience. The wrinkle? Trump's and Biden's town halls are airing at the same time: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, with Trump's on NBC and Biden's on ABC.

Over the past day, a new challenge has circulated on TikTok: Get your TV, computer, phone, tablet and any other device with a screen, and watch Joe Biden's town hall on every single one. Trump, the idea goes, is ratings obsessed, so it'll be a humiliation if Biden's town hall event outperforms the president's.


The town halls are Thursday night and every view on a different platform or device counts toward ratings...just saying!!

♬ original sound - Hank Green

The idea began with Hank Green, a popular TikTok user, with more than 1.3 million followers. "If we did want to prevent Donald Trump from having this small win, we could all watch the Joe Biden town hall on every device we own simultaneously," he said in a Wednesday TikTok clip, "every phone, television and computer." The clip has racked up 1.1 million likes so far.

The idea has proliferated throughout the platform. Over 350 videos using Green's audio have been posted in the past day, and many more TikTok users are spreading the idea with original posts of their own.


Get your split screens ready yall. This bout to be a doozy ##presidentialdebates2020##townhall##biden##smackdown##howtowatch

♬ original sound - Magsssss

I’ll be watching! Will you be? ##joebiden##townhall##DialItForward##ImJealous##fyp##dumptrump##bluewave##voteblue##voteearly##tiktokforbiden##abcnews

♬ Conga - Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine


♬ original sound - Nate Wolff

There is a slight problem with the tactic though: It's unlikely to make a difference. The "ratings" Trump often crows about are overnight metered market ratings, or "overnights," which represent data collected by Nielsen. Nielsen notably doesn't include streaming services in its ratings. In other words, Trump is unlikely to care, or even notice, if the online viewership of Biden's town hall exceeds his.

Regardless, it's not the first time activists on TikTok have rallied to stick a thorn in Trump's side. In June, users on the platform took credit for sabotaging a Trump rally, as they encouraged their followers to register for tickets and then not attend. It appeared to have worked, with 19,000 showing up for a rally that had more than 1 million ticket requests.

The plan for the second presidential debate fell apart last week, when the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing coronavirus concerns, announced that the debate would go virtual. Trump pulled out, with his campaign insisting on the debate taking place next week instead. Biden's campaign rejected this idea, and instead decided to put on an ABC town hall event during the time slot originally dedicated to the debate. On Wednesday, NBC announced it would hold a Trump town hall at the same time as Biden's.