Members of Congress and the White House have spoken out about data privacy concerns related to the short-form video app TikTok, even threatening an all-out ban of the platform in the U.S. last week. In response, TikTok creators and several Democratic lawmakers gathered outside the Capitol on Wednesday evening to protest that possibility.
Many held signs with the words, “My _ thrives on TikTok,” with the blank space filled in with their choice of noun, alluding to the fact that the app is a major source of exposure for many creators.
The possibility of a ban on TikTok first emerged last week when the Biden administration reportedly told Chinese internet company ByteDance, which created TikTok, to sell its shares in the app or face losing the entire U.S. market.
Some lawmakers, however, expressed concerns about the Chinese government gaining access to U.S. data long before Biden’s ultimatum.
Months ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, “I want to ban TikTok for a very simple reason. They allow the Chinese Communist party to gain access to all of the private data on any device in America that’s using TikTok. That’s our kids, that’s phones connected to our kids’ phones, and that’s a national security threat.”
Now, TikTokers are mobilizing in support of the app, and they were joined by a few Democratic representatives outside of the Capitol.
“What happens is, a certain party, usually Republicans, whip something like this into hysteria, and we move way too rapidly in the wrong direction,” a TikTok spokesperson at the demonstration said.
Some demonstrators said that threats to ban the app are not due to national security concerns at all, but instead due to xenophobia or efforts to maintain the public image that the U.S. has held its ground on privacy concerns related to the Chinese Communist Party.
“We’re having some tensions with China right now, and so, the politicians are saying, we can’t be seen as soft on China. So, we have to go out, we have to take a strong stand against TikTok,” TikTok content creator Dan Salinger said.
But after a strong push from Republicans to regulate TikTok in the U.S., Democrats have also come around to the idea that TikTok could be a threat to national security.
The White House and a bipartisan group of senators recently endorsed the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology, or RESTRICT, Act. The legislation would afford the government more authority to regulate foreign technology, essentially granting President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok.
“We’re here today … to sound the alarm and take action against the threats TikTok and its overlord, the Chinese Communist Party, pose to the safety of our children and to America’s national security,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said earlier this month.
Most of the TikTok creators that staged the demonstration in front of the Capitol agreed on one thing: banning the app would rob them of the community they’ve built.
“For me as a creator and also someone who’s seen the power of the app, when I think of TikTok, I think of community, I think of support,” TikToker Tony Weaver Jr. said. “And I think that’s something that would be terrible to lose.”