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TikTok turns to creators to fight possible ban

Faced with a possible ban in the United States, TikTok rushed to deploy perhaps its most powerful weapon: its creators.

The wildly popular video service began recruiting dozens of creators late last week, asking them to travel to Washington to fight a bill being debated in Congress. Under the proposal, TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance would have to sell the app or it would be blocked in the United States.

Many creators met with lawmakers and posted videos about their opposition to the bill with the hashtag #KeepTikTok, often with the irreverent humor the app is known for.

“So the old white boomers that we call people in Congress are trying to ban TikTok, and I can't do it,” Giovanna González, a TikTok creator better known as @TheFirstGenMentor, posted in a video Tuesday, with the U.S. Capitol visible in the distance behind her.

So far, the efforts have not been successful. The House passed the bill Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. But he could face an uphill battle in the Senate, where TikTok creators have already set their sights.

Unlike traditional lobbyists, creators were not paid to support TikTok. However, the company covered their transportation, accommodations and meals, including a celebratory dinner at Bazaar by José Andrés, a restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

The creators said they spoke for themselves and posted personal and often emotional videos about what the app meant to them. The arrangement was similar last year when TikTok has brought creators to Washington to defend the app, as Shou Chew, TikTok's chief executive, testified before Congress.

President Biden and lawmakers in Congress have increasingly expressed concern that Chinese ownership of TikTok poses serious risks to U.S. national security, including the ability to interfere in elections. The bill, supported by Mr Biden, aims to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to non-Chinese owners within six months. The president could sign the deal if it resolved national security concerns. Otherwise, the app would be banned.

TikTok has repeatedly said that Beijing officials have no say in how the app works and that the Chinese government also has no access to US user data, which is stored in the United States. United. The company said after the vote that it “hopes the Senate will look at the facts, listen to its constituents and realize the impact on the economy” and TikTok's 170 million U.S. users.

Several creators said they spoke to lawmakers and their aides about how the app has influenced their lives and promoted their businesses, while calling for a “no” vote. Many have posted videos with Rep. Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, who opposed the bill. One creator, a child safety advocate named Dani Morin, said she met with Sen. Laphonza Butler and Rep. Pete Aguilar, both California Democrats.

Paul Tran, who runs a skincare brand with his wife, Lynda Truong, called Love & Pebble, said he wasn't even aware of the bill when TikTok approached him for the week's trip last. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it,’” he said, adding that 90 percent of his company’s sales come from the app. “Most people still think TikTok is just a fun app, but in reality, businesses are being built here.”

TikTok helped coordinate television appearances — Mr. Tran said he joined “Good Morning America” this week — and protests outside the Capitol and the White House, where creators held signs with messages such as “ TikTok has changed my life for the better.”

The creators appeared at a news conference with lawmakers opposed to the bill, such as Rep. Maxwell Frost, Democrat of Florida. An American Civil Liberties Union attorney also spoke with the creators at their hotel about potential constitutional issues with the bill, the organization said.

“We are proud that so many creators and community members are willing to step away from their families, jobs and businesses, on such short notice, to advocate against a rushed bill that would trample on the feet the constitutional free speech rights of Americans,” Alex Haurek, a TikTok spokesperson, said in a statement. He said more than 100 creators and members of the TikTok community had joined the campaign.

Last week, TikTok sent a pop-up message to many of its users inviting them to call their legislators. Several congressional offices reported being inundated with calls that day.

Many designers traveled to Washington on Monday and planned to leave on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, many creators posted videos expressing disappointment with the House vote but optimism about the bill's chances in the Senate.

“Please don’t give up hope, don’t get too upset – there are a lot of things we can do before this app disappears,” an activist and feminist who posts under @FamousBlonde told her followers . Her caption included a note urging Rep. Jeff Jackson, Democrat of North Carolina, to “kick the rocks.”

Mr. Jackson is the most popular member of Congress on TikTok with 2.5 million followers. He voted in favor of the bill, sparking more than 18,000 comments on one of his videos on Wednesday.

Tiffany Yu, a 35-year-old disability rights advocate in Los Angeles who was among the creators in Washington this week, said that when she posted videos about the bill, she realized that Many users were still unaware of Congress' machinations.

“One of the comments said I had no idea what was going on,” she said. “There is still a gap between what is happening on the Hill and the people we are able to reach. »

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