TikTok Mobilizes Users Against Proposed Legislation

US congressional offices report an overwhelming influx of calls from TikTok users expressing concerns about potential legislation that could lead to the app’s ban. The callers, spanning from teenagers to the elderly, seem perplexed, with many stating they called because “TikTok told me to,” according to a Republican staffer.

A Democratic staffer noted that their office received the most aggressive and threatening calls from adult women. Contrary to TikTok’s intentions, lawmakers and their staff assert that this lobbying campaign has had an adverse effect, heightening their apprehensions about the app and its parent company, ByteDance, and reinforcing their determination to push forward with the proposed legislation.

A bipartisan group of 20 lawmakers has introduced a bill mandating ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months, or the app would be removed from US mobile app stores. The legislation has gained rapid approval in Congress, securing unanimous support from a key committee, and is slated for a vote in the full House on Wednesday. President Joe Biden has expressed his intention to sign it into law.

Amid the legislative progress, TikTok has initiated a last-minute effort to mobilize users against the proposed legislation. The app sent notifications urging TikTokers to “call your representative now” and provided a direct link for users to contact their district representatives.

Florida Congressman Neal Dunn’s office has reported receiving over 900 calls from TikTok users, including vulnerable school-aged children, with some calls featuring extreme rhetoric flagged for security reasons. Congressman Dunn, a Republican and original co-sponsor of the bill, stated that ByteDance’s mobilization validated his concerns.

Allegedly, American phones were geolocated, and TikTok users were locked out of the platform until they called their members of Congress. TikTok, when approached by the BBC regarding these claims, countered that all users had two methods for dismissing the notifications and denied the allegation of locking users out of the app.

For an extended period, legislators have asserted that ByteDance maintains ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), portraying the video-sharing app TikTok as a possible menace to the privacy and mental well-being of Americans. TikTok, presently boasting over 170 million users in the US, and ByteDance refute these allegations.

Carlos Gimenez, a member of the House committee responsible for the bill alongside Mr. Dunn, asserted his unwavering commitment to vote in favor of it, undeterred by TikTok’s targeted campaign against lawmakers.

A spokesperson for New York Democrat Ritchie Torres, co-leader of the legislation, confirmed that his office had also been inundated with calls, although none were deemed threatening.

“I am deeply troubled by reports of young people calling Congress, threatening to commit suicide or otherwise harm themselves,” Mr. Torres stated in a message to the press.


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