TikTok is sending influencers to Washington, D.C. to lobby on its behalf

The week beginning on March 20 is shaping up to be a make-or-break moment for TikTok‘s U.S. operations. As the app’s CEO prepares to speak before Congress, his company is sending a group of influencers to the nation’s capital, where they will lobby on TikTok’s behalf.

According to The Information, dozens of TikTok creators will have their travel expenses covered by the app. They will spend three days in Washington, where they will advocate for the platform that fuels their respective livelihoods. The specific influencers who will make the trip have not been officially announced, but the contingent is expected to host a press conference on March 22.

“Lawmakers in Washington debating TikTok should hear firsthand from people whose lives would be directly affected by their decisions,” said TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown. “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.”

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One day after the creator press conference, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will make his trip to Capitol Hill. By testifying in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (HECC), Chew hopes to dissuade Congress from adopting one of several proposed measures that would ban TikTok in the United States. One of those bills, the RESTRICT Act, was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators.

TikTok’s plan to avoid a ban centers around Project Texas, a proposed security agreement that would store data of U.S. users on the servers of an American company (Oracle

). The app and parent company ByteDance believe in the deal, even as former TikTok workers attempt to undermine it. One ex-TikTok employee told Congressional regulators that Project Texas will not prevent Chinese officials from accessing American data, and he advised against the proposed agreement. TikTok has disputed the validity of those claims.

Another group of ex-employees is causing a different sort of trouble for TikTok. Last December, the app fired four workers who admitted to tracking journalists via their user data. That effort, dubbed Project Raven, has caught the eye of the U.S. Justice Department. An investigatory probe will look to determine the extent of Project Raven.

The presence of pro-TikTok influencers in D.C. could counteract some of these negative headlines. The creators can show regulators the merits of TikTok, even if they can’t address the validity of potential security risks. Their lobbying, part of a TikTok charm offensive, could sway the official who must approve any Congressional bans: President Biden. The POTUS has displayed an affinity for TikTok and its community, and that presents an opening for the creators who will speak in the app’s favor.

The Biden Administration has expressed some support for the RESTRICT Act, so TikTok’s days in the U.S. could be numbered, no matter what its influencers say. The good news is that the app continues to thrive, even as its Stateside status comes under threat. A recent report projected that TikTok’s global ad revenue will reach $15.2 billion in 2023.

Published by
Sam Gutelle

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