TikTok campaign to pressure  Congress against restrictions backfires spectacularly after online addicts harass politicians

News & Politics

A campaign by TikTok to pressure members of Congress against social media restrictions backfired spectacularly after some young people harassed politicians and threatened to commit suicide.

“If you ban TikTok, I will kill myself,” said one caller to a Republican member of Congress, according to Olivia Beavers of Politico.

House members on the Energy and Commerce Committee were considering approving the bill to force Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok or be banned in the U.S. If they approved it, it would advance to the Senate and the president before final approval.

TikTok tried to tip the scale in its favor by weaponizing users who lived in districts of members of Congress on the committee. The company sent them a message asking them to contact their representative in order to oppose the measure.

“TikTok is at risk of being shut down in the US. Call your representative now,” the misleading message read.

The calls had the opposite effect of that intended because the measure to restrict TikTok passed unanimously with 50 votes in favor and none against.

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the chair of the committee, said to Politico that the campaign only “exposed the degree in which TikTok can manipulate and target a message.”

“Phones are completely bogged down hearing from students, young adults, adults, and business owners who are all concerned at the option of losing their access to the platform,” said a senior Republican aide to Axios.

The bill is also backed by the new House Majority speaker, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who called it “an important bipartisan measure to take on China, our largest geopolitical foe, which is actively undermining our economy and security.”

“Most far-reaching psych warfare operation in history”

Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas responded in a statement on social media explaining his support for the measure.

“Lot’s of TikTok influencers are real mad about the bipartisan legislation we are gonna pass today. I get it, your favorite digital drug is under threat. So I’ll explain it really simply,” he wrote.

Crenshaw criticized TikTok for demanding its users give them their zip codes in order to target those in the districts of members on the committee.

“Second, the parent company of TikTok is ByteDance in China. China is not like the US. China can make companies do whatever the government wants, to include handing over data and weaponizing social media platforms for potentially the most far-reaching psych warfare operation in history,” he continued.

“Third, today’s legislation doesnt ban TikTok,” Crenshaw added. “It simply says it can’t be owned by a foreign adversary like China. Under this bill, TikTok could be bought by an American company and then, hey, maybe I’ll even open an account and make some viral dance videos.”

A spokesperson for TikTok decried the bill as unconstitutional.

“They’re trying to use these scare tactics to have a bill that gives the government unprecedented access to remove apps from people’s phones,” said Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas.

Aside from the national security threat TikTok may pose, experts have warned that social media overuse can have a deleterious effect on children. Critics say that social media may be contributing to “the skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates we are seeing afflict children.”

Here’s more about the bill against TikTok:

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