With the threat of a full ban of the app looming, TikTok is working to assure advertisers that everything will be okay, while it’s also rallying support from high-profile users, in an attempt to sway influential opinions, and hopefully win a stay of execution in the US.
According to a new report from The Information, TikTok has been holding meetings with top advertisers in recent weeks in an effort to allay concerns about a potential ban.
As per The Information:
“TikTok has been taking steps to reassure the ad industry, including convening a closed-door meeting with advertisers in New York last month where executives, including data security manager Andy Bonillo, explained how they planned to resolve the government’s national security concerns.”
Those meetings haven’t provided much assurance, according to attendees, but the fact that TikTok is now moving to the next stage of its disaster mitigation plan underlines the seriousness of the threat, and the potential likelihood of an actual ban being put in place.
At the same time, TikTok has been rallying high-profile users, and calling on them fly to DC to lobby senators not to implement a ban.
As reported by Politico:
“Dozens of TikTok creators will descend on Washington for three days [this week], according to a person familiar with the plans, who revealed details on condition of anonymity. The creators will hold a press conference on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, the person added. Another person familiar with the plans noted that TikTok was paying for the cost of sending influencers to DC.”
So expect to see a lot of content from Washington landmarks in your ‘For You’ feed this week.
It’s the latest in TikTok’s effort to stave off restrictions in the US, as the White House considers a full ban of the app on national security grounds.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company Bytedance, is beholden to China’s cybersecurity laws, which stipulate that all apps have to share user data with the Chinese Government on request. There’s nothing to suggest that TikTok has been called upon to provide such as yet, but as tensions with China increase, there are concerns that this could be used as a means to gather intel on influential American users, or political and media identities in the US, and other regions, as a means to sway opinion, influence policy, etc.
And there may be some validity to this.
Back in December, it was revealed that Bytedance had been spying on several American journalists whom it believed had been in contact with Bytedance staff, and had gained access to commercially sensitive information.
In order to address this, Bytedance monitored the TikTok accounts of these journalists, and correlated their location data with that of Bytedance employees, in an effort to see if they were ever in the same place at the same time.
That’s the type of spy activity that TikTok could facilitate, while it’s also possible that government employees, for example, could be used as leverage, with TikTok data able to provide location info, data on their kids, their home, etc.
There are ways that this could be used for negative purpose, and as such, it makes sense for government officials to remove the app from official devices, particularly against the backdrop of dissenting opinions on military conflict.
But should that extend to regular users as well?
The next stage of these discussions will likely be critical, with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew set to appear before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. It’s unlikely that TikTok’s expanded influencer efforts will sway political opinion - but again, the latest moves underline the significance of the threat the app now faces, which could move to the next, even more critical phase later this week.