TikTok CEO brings influencers to Washington for support

TikTok’s CEO is facing the US hot seat for the first time this week. He is also bringing TikTok influencers to Washington for support to lobby on the app’s behalf. 

The influencers will have their travel expenses covered by the app and spend three days in Washington, where they will advocate for the platform that fuels their respective livelihoods. 

Who these influencers are specifically has not yet been announced despite the press conference being due to be held tomorrow, March 22nd. 

In regards to what these influencers are expected to lobby on, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will be 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 centres 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.

Tensions are furthered by another group of ex-employees who are 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.

Bringing it back to the presence of creators, TikTok hopes that bringing them to 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 favour.

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