Mar 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: TikTok fires back at House China committee over anti-ban campaign

Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

TikTok didn't hold back in replying to a letter from the House China Select Committee Monday, defending its right to engage users to advocate against a fast-moving House bill that could lead to a ban of the Chinese-owned app.

Why it matters: TikTok is gearing up for an ugly fight with Congress, escalating its communications strategy at a moment when its existence in the U.S. is under greater threat than ever.

Context: The House will vote Wednesday on a bipartisan bill that would force Beijing-based Bytedance to divest its ownership of TikTok within 165 days or risk a ban from U.S. app stores.

Details: "TikTok disagrees with many of the assertions in your letter, which range from offensive to patently false," TikTok vice president of public policy Michael Beckerman wrote in the letter obtained by Axios.

  • "This latest legislation being rushed through at unprecedented speed without even the benefit of a public hearing, poses serious Constitutional concerns," Beckerman argued.
  • House China Committee chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) had accused TikTok of a "disinformation" campaign after the company warned its users that the House was considering a "ban" on the app.
  • Beckerman replied that the press release of the bill quoted lawmakers calling it a ban explicitly and that former President Trump described the bill as a ban; he also pointed out Gallagher has made clear he supports a ban in past statements.

Notably, Beckerman also questioned why the lawmakers were angered by TikTok's campaign to get users to contact lawmakers, an initiative that has caused congressional offices to be overwhelmed by phone calls.

  • "TikTok takes issue with your apparent concern that your constituents,
    under their constitutionally-protected right to petition, were contacting your offices to express their views about a piece of legislation and how they might be affected should such legislation be passed into law," Beckerman wrote.

The intrigue: Beckerman offered up a reason why divestment is an unlikely scenario for TikTok: the company has already invested $1.5 billion to secure U.S. user data on the Oracle cloud, known as Project Texas.

  • "Under a divestment scenario, it is highly unlikely a company purchasing TikTok would continue this expensive, groundbreaking work. Ironically, U.S. user data could be less secure under a divestment scheme."
  • "We look forward to continuing our conversations with Congress."
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