TikTok is doing everything it can to prevent the federal government from banning the app in the United States, even resorting to paying to fly creators on the popular app to Washington to protest on Capitol Hill.
Influencers descended on the nation’s capital for a demonstration just before TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on matters ranging from the app’s promotion of possibly dangerous content to children to questions of national security, particularly the collection of personal data by its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance.
The creators, however, did not descend on Washington on their dime. Creators who were present told the Washington Examiner the company paid to fly them out, and they were transported to a demonstration in support of TikTok via bus.
The compensation for transportation indicates TikTok had a hand in organizing the event and incentivized creators to show up, specifically to boost support for the company in the face of a possible TikTok ban in the U.S.
While creators were flown in from states all over the country, TikTok representative Jamal Brown confirmed that the platform did not compensate creators outside of transportation costs.
Despite creators at the demonstration spotlighting TikTok as a positive, supportive community, at Thursday’s hearing, members of Congress pointed out how dangerous some of the content presented to children can be.
“You’ll see some of the challenges that we’ve seen on TikTok. You know about them,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) said, gesturing to a poster behind him that outlined some of the alarming, life-threatening challenges that have gone viral on TikTok in recent years, such as the blackout challenge, the NyQuil chicken challenge, and the Benadryl challenge.
“They don’t have this over in China,” he said.
During the hearing, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) also pressed Chew on what TikTok is doing to mitigate the promotion of possibly dangerous content on the app. He played a series of clips related to suicidal ideation and suicidal thoughts that could appear on the “For You Page” of any user who searches for content related to self-harm.
Yet, when the TikTok CEO was asked by Bilirakis if the company has full control over the app’s algorithm and, therefore, what type of content users see, Chew refused to answer the question with a yes or no.
“We do take these issues very seriously, and we do provide resources,” he offered instead.
The House recently passed the Understanding Cybersecurity of Mobile Networks Act, which would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to investigate the cybersecurity of mobile service networks and the vulnerability of these networks to “cyberattacks and surveillance conducted by adversaries.”