Business Standard

Tiktok turns to creators to fight possible ban

- SAPNA MAHESHWARI & YIWEN LU ©2024 The New York Times News Service

Facing a possible ban in the United States, Tiktok has scrambled to deploy perhaps its most powerful weapon: its creators.

The hugely popular video service began recruiting dozens of creators at the end of last week, asking them to travel to Washington to fight a bill passed in Congress. Under the proposal, Tiktok’s Chinese owner, Bytedance, would need to sell the app or it would be blocked in the United States.

Many of the creators have met with lawmakers and posted videos about their opposition to the bill with the hashtag #Keeptiktok, often with the irreverent humour the app is known for.

So far, the efforts have not panned out. The House passed the bill Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. But it may face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Tiktok creators are already setting their sights.

Unlike traditiona­l lobbyists, the creators were not paid to support Tiktok. However, the company covered their transporta­tion, lodging and meals, including a festive dinner at the Bazaar by José Andrés, a restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

The creators said they were speaking for themselves, and posted personal and often emotional videos about what the app meant to them. The arrangemen­t was similar last year when Tiktok brought creators to Washington to defend the app as Shou Chew, Tiktok’s chief executive, testified before Congress.

President Biden and congressio­nal lawmakers have increasing­ly voiced concern that Tiktok’s Chinese ownership poses grave national security risks to the United States, including the ability to meddle in elections. The bill, which is supported by the President Joe Biden, is meant to force Bytedance to sell Tiktok to nonchinese owners within six months. The president could sign off on the deal if it resolved national security concerns. Otherwise, the app would be banned.

Tiktok has said repeatedly that Beijing officials have no say in how the app operates, nor does the Chinese government have access to American user data, which is stored in the United States. The company said after the vote that it was “hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituen­ts and realise the impact on the economy” and Tiktok’s 170 million US users. Several creators said they told lawmakers and their aides about how the app had influenced their lives and promoted their businesses, as they urged “no” votes.

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