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Controversial TikTok Bill Spurs Online Content Creators To Rally In Washington


Controversial TikTok Bill Spurs Online Content Creators To Rally In Washington

As the TikTok bill that could force Chinese ByteDance to divest from its viral video app looms, the company is mounting an unconventional lobbying effort by rallying online content creators to advocate for the platform on Capitol Hill.

Controversial TikTok Bill Spurs Online Content Creators To Rally In Washington

Dozens of popular TikTok influencers – some with millions of followers – have taken to Washington this week for a two-day lobbying endeavor organized by the social app giant. Their mission is to meet with lawmakers and share personal stories about how the app has helped launch businesses, build communities, and provide creative outlets.

The lobbying push comes as the House prepares to vote as soon as Wednesday on the bipartisan bill that would give the Biden administration power to ban TikTok in the U.S. if ByteDance doesn’t sell or shutter the platform.

The proposed legislation stems from national security concerns about data privacy and Chinese government influence. While the House appears poised to approve it, its fate in the Senate remains unclear amid pushback from some progressive lawmakers and civil liberties groups arguing it threatens free speech.

For TikTok influencers like Summer Lucille, a 34-year-old boutique owner from Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Associated Press the potential demise of the app could devastate her business. She says her TikTok account with 1.4 million followers serves as a lucrative marketing channel for her to expand her customer base across the U.S. and internationally.

“If they ban it, I don’t know what it will do,” Lucille, who traveled to Washington this week to voice her support for TikTok, said in an interview arranged by the platform. “It will be devastating.”

Other creators like JT Laybourne, a father of four from Utah’s Salt Lake City, credit TikTok with helping build tight-knit online communities and even raise funds for charitable causes. After his 2020 heart surgery, he utilized the platform to help raise $1 million for the American Heart Association in less than two years. His family runs an apparel company that gets traffic from TikTok.

“I will fight tooth-and-nail for this app,” said Laybourne, who is also part of the influencer cohort advocating for TikTok in Washington this week.

The grassroots advocacy illustrates the depth of TikTok’s integration into American culture, especially among younger users. The app boasts over 150 million monthly active users in the States and has become a powerhouse platform for launching viral trends, new businesses, and creative content.

The popularity has also brought challenges for TikTok in Washington’s elite circles, where there are conflicting views amid national security risks due to its Chinese ownership. While other tech giants like Meta and Google field armies of high-priced lobbyists to seek favor with lawmakers, TikTok is leaning heavily on the impassioned pleas of the platform’s online influencers.

The company has employed more conventional Washington tactics as well, retaining dozens of lobbyists, think-tank experts, and former Congressmen to advocate for its position. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew also plans to meet with lawmakers during his Washington visit this week.

Whether the personal stories shared by TikTok’s influencer army will sway any votes is yet to be seen. On Tuesday, FBI and intelligence officials briefed House lawmakers on national security risks associated with the app, reinforcing the argument for the legislation.

Still, the unique lobbying tactic underscores how TikTok’s massive cultural impact – and the livelihoods it has created – will factor into the heated political debate over its future in the United States. 

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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