Together, TikTok and its parent company have spent more than $13 million on lobbying federal officials. 2019 — Efforts appear to have leveled off as lawmakers push for proposals targeting app ownership by Chinese companies and calling for a complete ban on TikTok in the US.
week Buck’s staff is head of the social media company U.S. Public Policy Shop after Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri introduced a law banning TikTok downloads nationwide. I got a call in February from Michael Beckerman, someone close to Buck.
Beckerman countered concerns from Buck staff that TikTok was collecting customer data and backed the company’s new initiative, known as Project Texas, the person said. Project Texas on his TikTok effort Put US customer data in a secure hub controlled by the tech giant Oraclewhich is intended to alleviate concerns of the US government. It may be accessed by Chinese parent company ByteDance or by members of China’s ruling party.
The lobbying comes amid ongoing efforts by TikTok to quell concerns raised by lawmakers who want to ban the app. 150 million monthly active users in the US. The company is trying to show that concerns about user information can be addressed without an outright ban, but most lawmakers and Controversial hearings on TikTok this month It seemed unconvinced that Project Texas would properly do so.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew spoke to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on “TikTok: How Congress Can Protect America’s Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harm.” I am watching you testify at the public hearing. On March 23, 2023, on Capitol Hill, Washington.
Evelyn Hochstein | Reuters
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said at the hearing that ByteDance’s China-based employee Access to some US data from the app. But he assured that once Project Texas was completed, employees would no longer retain the data.
Sustained lobbying pressure and Chu’s testimony have so far stifled Capitol efforts to sever TikTok’s ties with its Chinese owners or limit access to the app. yeah.
TikTok spokeswoman Brooke Overwetter did not deny any element of the story. She defended the TikTok team’s work in Washington, saying the company seeks to address lawmakers’ privacy and safety concerns.
“Our team in Washington has always focused on educating lawmakers and stakeholders about our company and our services,” Oberwetter said. “We will continue our efforts to educate lawmakers and the American public about our progress in implementing Project Texas to address national security concerns and address privacy concerns industry-wide. We will continue to work with lawmakers, stakeholders, and industry peers on solutions, and safety.”
One of the major proposals targeting TikTok is the RESTRICT Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators led by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (RS.D.). In the House, the Secretary of Commerce authorizes the Secretary to assess the national security risks associated with certain technology transactions with companies or individuals in certain foreign hostile countries, including China. You can recommend taking action up to a ban.
Another proposal is the DATA Act, introduced by Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul. The protections that normally protect creative content from U.S. sanctions will be withdrawn. It also requires the president to impose sanctions on China-based companies that transfer sensitive personal data of Americans to Chinese individuals and companies. The proposal passed the Republican-led House Foreign Relations Committee, and Democrats feared it was done hastily.
At the extreme extreme is Holly and Buck’s law, which seeks to ban TikTok outright by directing the president to block transactions with ByteDance.
Since the call with Beckerman, Buck has not hesitated to call the app a threat to national security. He replied that he did, said a person close to Buck.
Another supporter of the Colorado legislator said lobbying money was wasted trying to change Buck’s mind. It’s like they’re setting money on fire.”
Another Republican strategist familiar with TikTok’s lobbying efforts told CNBC that the company’s “last minute blitzkrieg” lobbying on Capitol Hill weeks before Chu’s testimony was “amateur hour.” said. Congress sometimes refused to meet with company representatives, and TikTok officials did not reach out to key lawmakers, including Hawley, who targeted the app, according to people familiar with the matter.
Hawley is not easing its campaign to ban TikTok. On Wednesday, he sought unanimous support from the Senate to expedite his bill. Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who is one of a small group of lawmakers from both parties opposed to efforts to ban access to the app, blocked Hawley’s bill. While many lawmakers have yet to conclude that a ban is necessary, only a handful have openly ruled it out.
Those who declined to name themselves in this article did so to speak freely about private conversations and meetings. A Hawley spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Correspondence with Buck’s team, according to advisers and aides to congressmen, are the many instances where lobbyists for TikTok, or its China-based parent company ByteDance, have seen their campaigns fall on deaf ears in the Capitol. The fact that some legislators have shown little interest in hearing TikTok executives’ views is a sign that the company is seeking more support in Congress to prevent new restrictions and possible bans on the app. It’s the latest sign that you may need supporters.
Warner met with TikTok lobbyists earlier this year, according to a person who attended the meeting at the Senate office. Specification This will allow the Secretary of Commerce to take action against TikTok. The White House ever since He supported the bill and asked Congress to pass it for President Joe Biden to sign.
Warner’s office did not return requests for comment.
TikTok appears to have stepped up its lobbying efforts shortly before Chew’s testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.The company flew TikTok influencers to Washington before the event.
The company also had allies Congressman Jamal Bowman, DY A day before the hearing, he and the app’s popular content creator held a press conference to speak out against a possible ban.
But at a closed-door meeting, some of those same influencers told Bowman that he would have to pass regulations to keep his apps intact while protecting his data on all social media platforms, including TikTok. said an aide familiar with the debate.
Creators’ plea to keep access to TikTok in the U.S. regardless of legislative impact resonates with many U.S. users who see the app as a source of entertainment, information and even income It seems that. During and after the hearing, TikTok users shared clips of lawmakers asking the CEO basic questions. mock Congress For what they saw as a lack of understanding of technology.
but based on Five hours of tense interrogation by members of both sides At the hearing, the creator’s appeal, along with the addictive and potentially harmful nature of its design, didn’t seem to offset deep concerns shared by legislators about the app’s Chinese ties.
“I don’t think they won any lawsuits,” said Alex Moore, communications director for Rep. rice field. Bringing in TikTok creators to amplify the company’s message “hasn’t upset my boss,” Moore added.
Still, Moore said his office had heard a lot from voters since the hearing. But then “our phones kept ringing on-hook,” with the majority of callers speaking out against his TikTok ban.
“I’ve heard overwhelmingly that it’s not something our voters are interested in,” he said.
Such phones often “start hot”, Moore said component Schakowsky tends to calm down when staff explain that he wants comprehensive privacy laws to “not leave other companies indifferent” about similar data practices.
Schakowski told CNBC shortly after the hearing that there would likely be “further discussion” about how to address concerns directly related to China’s ownership of TikTok. Shakowski of bipartisan privacy laws Having passed a committee in the last Congress, she hopes the hearings will bring new momentum to privacy protections and apply to other big tech companies.
The lobbying efforts of TiKTok and ByteDance go hand in hand.
All the lobbyists in the company work for TikTok, according to ByteDance’s quarterly lobbying report. Among them are Beckerman, who once worked as policy director for former Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, and Freddie Burns, who worked in the office of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
TikTok itself employs a large number of outside lobbyists. Its latest recruits include former California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and Ankit Desai, who served as an aide to Biden when he was in the U.S. Senate.
Together, ByteDance and TikTok have spent more than $13 million on federal lobbying since 2019, according to lobbying disclosure reports and data researched by OpenSecrets.
The majority of lobbying spending related to social apps comes from ByteDance. TikTok’s parent company spent $5.3 million on federal lobbying in 2022, according to the nonpartisan OpenSecrets. This is a new company record.
TikTok itself has spent just over $900,000 on outside lobby consultants since 2020.
byte dance too Last year, he donated more than $400,000 in “honours” to nonprofits affiliated with members of Congress, according to filings.
The document shows that ByteDance donated $300,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Each of these organizations lists TikTok’s public policy director, Jesse Price, as a member of their boards or advisory boards.
TikTok’s main lobbyist, Beckerman, has signed a report showing contributions made by ByteDance.
According to public reports, TikTok and ByteDance have been targeting Biden’s office in the White House to lobby since 2020.
The White House did not respond when asked about details of its lobbying efforts.