On the one hand, dozens of Capitol Hill lawmakers are issuing dire warnings about security breaches and possible Chinese surveillance.
On the other, there are some 150 million TikTok users in the United States who simply wish they could keep creating and watching short, fun videos that offer makeup tutorials and cooking lessons, among other things.
The disconnect illustrates the uphill battle lawmakers on both sides of the aisle face in trying to convince the public that China could use TikTok as a weapon against the American people. But many users of the platform are more concerned about the possibility of the government taking away their favorite app.
Nevertheless, lawmakers, the FBI and officials from other agencies continue to sound the alarm that Chinese law requires Chinese companies like TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to provide data to the government for any purposes it deems related to national security. There are also concerns that Beijing may attempt to spread pro-China narratives or misinformation through the platform.
“I want to say this to all the teens and influencers on TikTok who think we’re just old and out of touch and don’t know what we’re talking about, trying to pick up your favorite app,” the Republican Rep said. Dan Crenshaw during the hearing. “You may not care about your data being accessed now, but you will be one day.”
Many TikTok users reacted to the hearing by posting videos criticizing lawmakers who grilled Chew and frequently cut him off. Some have called a potential ban on TikTok, as some lawmakers and the Biden administration have reportedly threatened, the “biggest scam” of the year. And others have blamed the rise of the platform’s review on another tech rival, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
But few have expressed fear of possible breaches of Chinese surveillance or security that lawmakers continue to amplify as they seek to rein in TikTok.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, whose district is in the heart of Silicon Valley, said he recognizes the value that platforms like TikTok offer young people as an outlet for creative expression and building. of a community. “But there’s absolutely no reason an American tech company can’t do that,” said Khanna, the top Democrat on the House Armed Service cyber subcommittee. “America has the most innovative technology companies in the world.”
He added that Congress should move forward with a proposal that would force the sale of the platform to an American company for continued access to its millions of users while “ensuring that the platform does not not be subject to Chinese propaganda or compromise people’s privacy.”
According to a Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 use TikTok, and 16% of all teens say they use it almost constantly. It’s because of TikTok’s large user base that Lindsay Gorman, a former technical adviser to the Biden administration who now works as a senior researcher for emerging technologies at the German Marshall Fund, said the Biden administration would pursue probably all options unless ban first. That would include the ability for the app’s Chinese owners to divest, which the Biden administration would demand from TikTok if it wants to avoid a nationwide ban.
TikTok itself has tried to capitalize on its popularity. Wednesday, he sent dozens of influencers to Congress lobby against a ban. It has also launched a broader public relations campaign, running ads across Washington that tout its promises to secure user data and privacy and create a safe platform for its young users.
Some popular TikTokers speaking out against a ban are concerned — and angry — about the impact it could have on their personal lives. Many earn revenue from their videos and have signed brand partnerships to market products to their audiences – another revenue stream that could be wiped out if the platform goes away. They would also lose the social capital that comes with having a large following on the trending app.
Demetrius Fields, a stand-up comedian who amassed 2.8 million followers on TikTok by posting comedy skits, said he’s spent a lot of time building his career and following on the platform. He has an active deal with fast fashion retailer Fashion Novawhich allows him to earn income with the videos he posts on TikTok.
If the app is taken down, he said building an audience on another platform would be a challenge for him due to competition for users’ attention.
“The financial implications for me would be pretty dire,” Fields said. “I should probably go back to a desk job.”
Sarah Pikhit, an 18-year-old student at Penn State University, said she used TikTok a lot, but started cutting back when she realized how much time she was spending scrolling through videos on Twitter. ‘application. She still uses it, but mostly to post her own content, which she says she can do on other platforms. She said she wouldn’t care if TikTok was banned – but her friends would.
“They like excessive scrolling,” Pikhit said.
Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.