TikTok Creators Fight To Keep App Alive

TikTok app on phone
TikTok app on phone | Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Content creators on the popular app TikTok gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to protest a bill that could lead to the platform being banned in the United States if its Chinese Communist Party-connected owners do not sell it off.

Summer Lucille, who has over 1 million followers on TikTok and runs a plus-size boutique that earns income through the app, called the bill’s potential enactment a “First Amendment” issue and told CNN there would be voter backlash, as reported by The National Desk.

“If you vote for this bill, you are voting against my small business,” Lucille said. “You are voting against me getting my slice of the American pie. This will highly influence who I vote for, especially in November.”

There are about 170 million U.S. users on TikTok. Dozens showed up at Capitol Hill to protest the legislation and inform legislators of the far-reaching impact a ban could have. According to several users, many people on the app were not even aware of the bill. In fact, TikTok reached out to users and paid some of the most prominent creators to travel to the nation’s capital to spread the message of concern.

Influencer and business co-owner Paul Tran told The New York Times that he did not know about the legislation until contacted by TikTok but immediately decided to make the trip to Washington, D.C.

“Most people still think that TikTok is just some fun app, but really, businesses are being made here,” Tran said. He noted that 90% of the skin-care business he and his wife own comes from sales on TikTok.

The average income of influencers on the app is around $121,765, though the number is skewed upward because of massive earnings by the top influencers. Exploding Topics reported that nearly half of users earn less than $15,000, while just 7% earn above $200,000.

The top earner in 2023 was Charli D’Amelio, who rose to fame by posting lip-syncing videos and other content. She reportedly brought in $17.5 million but has not taken a stance on the legislative efforts that could lead to the app’s banning.

“As an 18-year-old girl who makes videos on the internet, I don’t think that’s a decision that I’m educated enough to really understand or have a real opinion on,” D’Amelio said in an interview with Bloomberg Originals.

The bill aims to force a sale of TikTok by its parent company ByteDance, which has been tied to the Chinese Communist Party. ByteDance collects user data that includes everything from users’ names to biometrics and is potentially subject to a Chinese law that requires companies to surrender data at the government’s request.

While there is no evidence that China has sought to secure American data from TikTok, the potential threat spurred the legislation, which steamrolled through the House. The Senate has not said whether it will take up the bill. Should the Senate pass the bill, President Joe Biden said he will sign it into law, as reported by The Dallas Express.

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