Forward of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s much-anticipated testimony in america Home of Representatives right now, the embattled tech agency carried out a full-court press on Capitol Hill. This included paying to carry TikTok influencers face-to-face with their house state lawmakers, staffers, and journalists, in addition to sharing their journey with their collective viewers of some 60 million followers.
TikTok coated journey, accommodations, 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 house. TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown confirms that “TikTok coated 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 underneath the Capitol’s majestic dome.
Whereas some influencers report paying their very own airfare to Washington, everybody we talked to took the free lodge. It’s unclear exactly what of us had been provided as a part of the journey to Washington, however seemingly everybody obtained one perk or one other. Past the greater than 30 influencers in attendance, together with their journey buddies, WIRED counted 10 different individuals who had been, in a method or one other, on the Capitol on behalf of TikTok.
“Greater than 150 million Individuals, together with 5 million US companies, depend on TikTok to innovate, discover group, and help their livelihoods,” spokesperson Brown says. “A US ban on TikTok might have a direct impression on the livelihoods of tens of millions of Individuals. Lawmakers in Washington debating TikTok ought to hear firsthand from individuals whose lives could be immediately affected by their choices.”
The almost dozen influencers WIRED spoke with didn’t conceal the truth that TikTok introduced them to Washington to help 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 data.”
Alexandra Doten, an professional in house communications who goes by @astro_alexandra on the app, is predicated close to Washington, DC. However she says she additionally obtained help from the corporate. “I obtained the lodge 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 Glenn Ivey, this week, the spotlight for her was assembly astronaut-turned-senator Mark Kelly of Arizona. She additionally obtained a real style of life on the Capitol when the state’s different senator, Kirsten Synema, despatched a staffer to satisfy 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 menace to US nationwide safety.
Chew is the newest in a line of Huge Tech executives who’ve needed to face hostile (if usually 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 gadgets or been accused of being a puppet for the Chinese language Communist Celebration.