To woo US legislators, TikTok brings its influencers | Social Media Information

TikTok is ramping up a public relations marketing campaign to fend off the potential of a nationwide ban by United States President Joe Biden’s administration, and it’s bringing some unconventional advocates to assist: on-line influencers.

Dozens of TikTok creators – some with hundreds of thousands of followers on the video-sharing app – got here to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to foyer in favour of the platform, at some point earlier than legislators are slated to grill the corporate’s chief govt about issues over person knowledge falling into the arms of the Chinese language authorities.

Shou Zi Chew plans to inform US Congress on Thursday that TikTok, which was based by Chinese language entrepreneurs and has 150 million American customers, is dedicated to person security, knowledge safety and safety in addition to conserving the platform free from Chinese language authorities affect.

He may also reply questions from US legislators apprehensive concerning the social media platform’s results on its younger person base.

On the coronary heart of TikTok’s hassle is a Chinese language nationwide intelligence regulation that might compel Chinese language corporations to fork over knowledge to the federal government for no matter functions it deems to contain nationwide safety. There may be additionally concern Beijing may attempt to push pro-China narratives or misinformation by means of the platform.

At a media occasion coordinated by TikTok on Wednesday, some content material creators acknowledged that issues about knowledge safety are reputable however pointed to precautions the corporate is taking. This features a $1.5bn plan – dubbed Mission Texas – to route all US knowledge to home servers owned and maintained by the software program large Oracle.

TikTok has been making an attempt to promote that proposal to the Biden administration however sceptics have argued it doesn’t go far sufficient. The administration is reportedly demanding the corporate’s Chinese language homeowners promote their stakes or face a nationwide ban.

Janette Okay, a trend and sweetness influencer on TikTok, mentioned in an interview on Wednesday that TikTok invited her to the lobbying occasion a number of weeks in the past and paid for her journey to Washington, DC.

She has been capable of make a full-time profession from her movies, incomes earnings from partnerships with manufacturers trying to seize the eyes of her 1.7 million followers. She mentioned her reputation on TikTok has additionally allowed her to produce other alternatives, like TV and industrial appearing roles.

“I don’t know a lot about politics however I do know quite a bit about trend and I do know quite a bit about individuals,” Okay mentioned. “And simply to be right here and share my story is what TikTok has invited me to do.”

Tensions constructing

Tensions round TikTok have been constructing on Capitol Hill, reaching a boiling level late final yr when a proposal to ban the app on authorities telephones handed with bipartisan assist and was signed into regulation by President Biden.

Republicans within the Home of Representatives are pushing a invoice that might give Biden the ability to ban the app.

Different payments have additionally been launched – some bipartisan – together with a measure that might circumvent the challenges the administration would face in courtroom if it moved ahead with sanctions towards the social media firm.

The trouble to focus on TikTok is a component of a bigger, harder strategy Congress has taken up to now a number of months as China’s relationship with two US adversaries – Russia and Iran – has come into focus. A latest incident with a spy balloon compelled even some cautious congressional Democrats to hitch Republicans in opposition.

There may be now a robust bipartisan concern in Washington, DC that Beijing would use authorized and regulatory energy to grab American person knowledge or use TikTok to push beneficial narratives or misinformation.

However the firm has additionally gotten assist from not less than three progressive legislators who say they oppose a ban on the platform. At a information convention on Wednesday with the influencers, Consultant Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York, characterised the nationwide safety issues which have been raised as xenophobic hysteria on account of TikTok’s Chinese language origins.

He mentioned if Congress desires to have an “sincere” dialog about knowledge assortment, it ought to concentrate on a nationwide privateness regulation that features all social media corporations – not simply TikTok.

“Normally, when there’s a problem of nationwide safety concern, they maintain a bipartisan congressional briefing on that exact problem,” Bowman mentioned. “We’ve got not acquired a bipartisan congressional briefing on the nationwide safety danger of TikTok.”

Lobbying blitz

TikTok’s response to the political strain may be seen throughout the nation’s Capitol, with the corporate placing up advertisements in space airports and metro stations that embrace guarantees of securing customers’ knowledge and privateness in addition to making a secure platform for its younger customers.

Final yr, the corporate spent greater than $5.3m on dispatching lobbyists to the Hill to make its case, in accordance with Open Secrets and techniques, a nonprofit that tracks lobbying spending.

On Thursday, Chew, a 40-year-old Singaporean who was appointed CEO in 2021, might be sticking to a well-known script as he urges officers towards pursuing an all-out ban on TikTok or for the corporate to be bought off to new homeowners.

TikTok’s efforts to make sure the safety of its customers’ knowledge go “above and past” what any of its rivals are doing, in accordance with Chew’s ready remarks launched forward of his look earlier than the US Home Committee on Power and Commerce.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance will not be an agent of China or every other nation,” Chew will say.

He’ll distance TikTok from its Chinese language roots and deny the “inaccurate” perception that TikTok’s company construction makes it “beholden to the Chinese language authorities”. ByteDance has developed right into a privately held “international enterprise,” Chew will say, with 60 % owned by massive institutional buyers, 20 % owned by the Chinese language entrepreneurs who based it and the remaining by workers.

It’s “emphatically unfaithful” that TikTok sends knowledge on its American customers to Beijing, he’ll say.

“TikTok has by no means shared or acquired a request to share, US person knowledge with the Chinese language authorities,” Chew will say. “Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one had been ever made.”

A TikTok ban, in accordance with Chew’s launched remarks, would damage the US financial system and small US companies that use the app to promote their merchandise, whereas decreasing competitors in an “more and more concentrated market”.

Chew will add {that a} sale “wouldn’t impose any new restrictions on knowledge flows or entry”.


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