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

TikTok is stepping up a public relations campaign to combat the possibility of a nationwide ban by the administration of US President Joe Biden, and it is bringing in some unique supporters to help: those influence online.

Dozens of TikTok creators — some with millions of followers on the video-sharing app — took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby in favor of the platform, a day before lawmakers were expected ​will question the company’s executives over concerns about user data being leaked. the hands of the Chinese government.

Shou Zi Chew plans to tell the US Congress on Thursday that TikTok, which was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs and has 150 million US users, is committed to ensuring user safety, data protection and security as well as maintaining the platform free from Chinese government affect.

He will also answer questions from US lawmakers worried about the social media platform’s impact on its younger user base.

At the heart of the trouble with TikTok is China’s national intelligence law that compels Chinese companies to provide data to the government for any purpose they deem to be related to national security. There is also concern that Beijing may try to push pro-China stories or misinformation through the platform.

At a media event coordinated by TikTok on Wednesday, several content creators acknowledged that data security concerns were legitimate but pointed to the precautions the company was taking. This includes a $1.5 billion plan – called Project Texas – to route all US data to domestic servers owned and maintained by software giant Oracle. maintain.

TikTok has tried to sell that proposal to the Biden administration but skeptics argue it doesn’t go far enough. The authorities are said to be asking the company’s Chinese owners to sell their shares or face a nationwide ban.

Janette Ok, a fashion and beauty influencer on TikTok, said in an interview Wednesday that TikTok invited her to a lobbying event a few weeks ago and paid for the trip. hers to Washington, DC.

She’s been able to make a full-time career out of her videos, earning income from partnerships with brands looking to capture the attention of her 1.7 million followers. She said her popularity on TikTok has also allowed her to have other opportunities, like television and commercial roles.

“I don’t know much about politics but I know a lot about fashion and I know a lot about people,” Ok said. “And just being here and sharing my story is what TikTok invited me to do.”

stress building

Tensions around TikTok have been growing on Capitol Hill, culminating late last year when the government’s proposal to ban the app on phones was passed with bipartisan support and signed by President Biden. into law.

House Republicans are pushing for a bill that would give Biden the power to ban the app.

Other bills have also been introduced — some bipartisan — including one that could avoid challenges the administration would face in court if it moved to impose sanctions on the company. social media.

The effort to target TikTok is part of a larger, tougher approach that Congress has taken over the past few months as China’s relationship with two US rivals – Russia and Iran – comes into focus. attention. A recent incident with spy balloons has forced even some cautious Democrats in Congress to join the opposition to Republicans.

There is strong bipartisan concern in Washington, DC that Beijing will use its legal and regulatory power to seize US user data or use TikTok to spread beneficial stories or information. false.

But the company has also received backing from at least three progressive lawmakers, who say they oppose a ban on the platform. At a press conference on Wednesday with influencers, Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat from New York, described national security concerns that had been raised as anti-racist hysteria. foreign due to TikTok’s Chinese origin.

He said if Congress wants to have an “honest” conversation about data collection, then Congress should focus on national privacy legislation that covers all social media companies — not just TikTok. .

“Typically, when there is an issue of national security, they hold a bipartisan press conference in front of Congress on that particular issue,” Bowman said. “We have not received a bipartisan congressional briefing on TikTok’s national security risks.”

lightning lobbying

TikTok’s response to political pressure can be seen across the nation’s Parliament, with the company posting ads at airports and metro stations in the area, including words promises data security and user privacy and creates a safe platform for young users.

According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit that tracks lobbying spending, last year the company spent more than $5.3 million sending lobbyists to Hill to deal with the case.

On Thursday, Chew, a 40-year-old Singaporean named CEO in 2021, will follow a familiar scenario as he urges officials not to pursue an outright ban on TikTok or sell the company to the new owner.

TikTok’s efforts to ensure the security of users’ data are “beyond” what any of its competitors are doing, according to Chew’s prepared remarks made before Mr. appeared before the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Let me state this clearly: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew will say.

He will separate TikTok from its Chinese roots and deny the “incorrect” belief that TikTok’s corporate structure makes it “dependent on the Chinese government”. ByteDance has grown into a privately held “global enterprise”, according to Chew, with 60% owned by large institutional investors, 20% owned by established Chinese entrepreneurs it and the rest are owned by employees.

He will say that TikTok sending data about its US users to Beijing is “completely untrue”.

“TikTok has never shared or received requests to share US user data with the Chinese government,” Chew will say. “TikTok will also not honor such a request if a request has ever been made.”

A ban on TikTok, according to comments made by Chew, will hurt the US economy and US small businesses that use the app to sell their products, while also reducing competition. in an “increasingly concentrated market”.

Chew will add that the sale “will not impose any new restrictions on data flow or access.”

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