Forward of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s much-anticipated testimony in america Home of Representatives at this time, the embattled tech agency performed a full-court press on Capitol Hill. This included paying to carry TikTok influencers face-to-face with their residence state lawmakers, staffers, and journalists—and naturally, sharing their journey with their collective viewers of some 60 million followers.
TikTok lined journey, lodges, meals, and shuttle rides to and from the Capitol for dozens of influencers, in accordance with the creators and the corporate itself. Every social media star was additionally invited to carry a plus one—whether or not they flew in from Oklahoma, hopped the Acela from New York, or drove in from their suburban Washington residence. TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown confirms that “TikTok lined journey bills for all creators and a visitor.”
“Any obstacles to getting right here they helped cowl,” says Tiffany Yu, a Los Angeles-based influencer and incapacity advocate tapped to talk yesterday at a extremely orchestrated press convention below the Capitol’s majestic dome.
Whereas some influencers report paying their very own airfare to Washington, everybody we talked to took the free resort. It’s unclear exactly what of us have been supplied as a part of the journey to Washington, however seemingly everybody acquired one perk or one other. Past the greater than 30 influencers in attendance, together with their journey buddies, Startup counted 10 different individuals who have been, in a technique or one other, on the Capitol on behalf of TikTok.
“Greater than 150 million People, together with 5 million US companies, depend on TikTok to innovate, discover group, and assist their livelihoods,” TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown says. “A US ban on TikTok might have a direct impression on the livelihoods of thousands and thousands of People. Lawmakers in Washington debating TikTok ought to hear firsthand from individuals whose lives can be immediately affected by their selections.”
The almost dozen influencers Startup spoke with didn’t cover the truth that TikTok introduced them to Washington to assist the corporate. (The plan was first reported by Politico and The Data.) “They took us right here, however we’re not being paid,” says Jorge Alverez, a psychological well being advocate from New Jersey. TikTok “paid for transportation—that’s additionally public info.”
Alexandra Doten, an skilled in house communications who goes by @astro_alexandra on the app, relies close to Washington, DC. However she says she additionally obtained assist from the corporate. “I acquired the resort too!” she says. “I don’t know. They only shuttle me there.”
Whereas Doten was in a position to meet together with her congressman, Maryland’s Glen Ivy, this week, the spotlight for her was assembly astronaut-turned-senator Mark Kelly of Arizona. She additionally acquired a real style of life on the Capitol when the state’s different senator, Impartial Kirsten Synema, despatched a staffer to fulfill with the influencers on her behalf. It’s unclear if their goodwill tour will sway any of TikTok’s numerous congressional critics, who declare the app poses a risk to US nationwide safety.
Chew is the newest in a line of Large Tech executives who’ve needed to face hostile (if typically uninformed) lawmakers. However not like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg or Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Chew is the one CEO who has had know-how banned on US authorities units or been accused of being a puppet for the Chinese language Communist Social gathering.