TikTok is mobilizing a cadre of influencers to descend on Washington and persuade lawmakers not to kill the China-founded app’s operation ahead of CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony in the House this week.
The content creators are expected to appeal to lawmakers’ emotions, while the company’s previous efforts to woo Washington insiders have focused heavily on promoting a TikTok plan to overhaul its data security efforts amid growing concerns about China’s prying eyes.
The TikTok influencers assembling in Washington are people who use the platform for “trying to make a living and put food on their tables,” according to TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown. He said his company’s community of creators includes teachers and small business owners.
“Lawmakers in Washington debating TikTok should hear firsthand from people whose lives would be directly affected by their decisions,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming our creators to our nation’s capital, helping them make their voices heard, and continuing to drive meaningful impact in their lives and for their communities.”
Mr. Brown did not answer which lawmakers the influencers’ intended to target. The several dozen influencers invited by TikTok will canvass Washington and meet lawmakers on Wednesday, according to NBC.
Top American TikTok accounts attract audiences in the tens of millions of followers, such as users Charli D’Amelio, who has more than 150 million followers, and Addison Rae, who has more than 88 million followers.
TikTok’s emphasis on how proposed restrictions may yield potential economic hardship for Americans comes as the company’s efforts to ameliorate concerns over data security have thus far failed.
China’s policies of civil-military fusion force businesses to work with the country’s communist regime, removing barriers between private companies and the government.
TikTok’s owner ByteDance hails from China, and fears that the Chinese government may use TikTok to siphon Americans’ data or influence impressionable users have spread among American policymakers in recent years.
President Biden signed into law fresh restrictions removing TikTok from government devices last year, and his administration has maintained a national security review of the platform that started under the Trump administration. Mr. Biden has made no public determination about a broader ban.
TikTok has looked to create the perception of distance between itself and China, including by telling the U.S. Senate last year that its parent company ByteDance had incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
To eliminate lingering security concerns about its Chinese connections, TikTok has promoted a plan to give the U.S. government veto power over a board of directors that would govern its restructured platform.
TikTok executives have sought to sell Washington insiders on the idea that the new TikTok U.S. Data Security would be walled-off from China. Will Farrell, the new entity’s interim security officer, said earlier this month that working at the new TikTok entity would more closely resemble an American government contractor than a tech company.
Mr. Farrell previously worked at major government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and spelled out his company’s proposal in a detailed presentation at an internet policy conference in Washington earlier
But TikTok’s charm offensive does not look to have disarmed Congress.
As the House Energy and Commerce Committee gears up to question Mr. Chew on Thursday, momentum is growing in the Senate for restrictions on TikTok.
A dozen senators proposing a new law to give Mr. Biden the legal authorization to impose a ban on TikTok said Friday that they enlisted six more senators to their cause. The effort that is led by Sens. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, and John Thune, South Dakota Republican, includes evenly divided representation of nine Democrats and nine Republicans.