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TikTok turns to creators to fight possible ban| GuyWhoKnowsThings

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

The 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 of the 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 we call Congress, people are trying to ban TikTok, and I'm not allowing 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 been unsuccessful. The House approved the bill Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. But it may face an uphill battle in the Senate, where TikTok creators are already setting their sights.

Unlike traditional lobbyists, the creators were not paid to support TikTok. However, the company took care of their transportation, accommodation and food, including a festive dinner at the 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 brought creators to Washington to defend the app, as TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress.

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

TikTok has repeatedly said that Beijing officials have no say in how the app operates, nor that the Chinese government has access to American users' data, which is stored in the United States. The company said after the vote that it was “hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to its constituents and realize the impact on the economy” and on TikTok's 170 million American users.

Several creators said they told lawmakers and their aides how the app had influenced their lives and promoted their businesses, while urging them to vote “no.” many published videos with Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., 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 didn't even know about the bill when TikTok approached him about the trip last week. “I said, 'I'm sure I'm going out,'” 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 business is actually being done here.”

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

The creators appeared at a news conference with lawmakers who opposed the bill, such as Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla. An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union also spoke with the creators at their hotel about possible constitutional problems with the bill, the organization said.

“We are proud that so many creators and community members were willing to take time away from their families, their work, and their businesses, on such short notice, to defend themselves against a rushed bill that would trample constitutional rights to free expression. of Americans.” TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek said in a statement. He said more than 100 TikTok creators and community members joined the push.

Last week, TikTok sent a popup message to many of its users urging them to call their legislators. Several congressional offices said they were inundated with calls that day.

Many creators flew 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 lose hope, don't get too angry; there are a lot of things we can do before this app disappears,” an activist and feminist who posts on @FamousBlonde told her followers. Her caption included a note for Rep. Jeff Jackson, D-North Carolina, to “kick rocks.”

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

Tiffany Yu, a 35-year-old disability 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 still didn't know anything about the machinations in The congress.

“One of the comments was like: I had no idea this was happening,” he said. “There's still a gap between what's happening at the Capitol and the people we can reach.”

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