TikTok influencers say ban would be ‘devastating’

Written by on March 14, 2024

Tik Tok supporters are seen outside the U.S. Capitol, March 13, 2024, in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — TikTok influencers — accustomed to their voices being heard by thousands on the wildly popular social media app — now are speaking out in hopes lawmakers hear their frustrations about efforts in Congress to possibly ban the platform in the United States.

The House on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation to force TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to sell it or face a ban in the U.S. It’s now headed to the Senate where its future is uncertain.

While several steps would need to happen before any ban would be implemented — including giving ByteDance six months to divest from TikTok — influencers are fighting back, with many saying a ban would hurt their businesses or dissolve a popular online community with more 170 million Americans users.

Influencers took to Capitol Hill Wednesday to fight the bill — and leading up to the House vote many heeded TikTok’s call on its users to reach out to their members of Congress. Lawmakers who want the ban say there are national security risks associated with the China-owned app; many who oppose the ban say it violates First Amendment rights.

TikTok estimates that about five million businesses use the social media platform to reach customers — and many influencers are saying their businesses would take a hit if the app is banned in the U.S.

TikTok content creators like Lynda Truong and Paul Tran said a ban would crush their business, which has nearly 140,000 followers. The couple estimates that around 95% of the sales for their beauty brand, Love & Pebble, are tied to TikTok.

“A ban on TikTok would be devastating,” Tran said.

The authenticity and direct connection with customers make it irreplaceable, Truong said.

“There’s really no other platform like TikTok,” Truong said. “… When I got onto TikTok, I was able to connect with people that really resonated with our brand.”

Sophie Beren, founder and CEO of The Conversationalist, a website that works to empower members of Gen Z — frequent users of the app — said Gen Z recognizes the downsides of TikTok, but said a ban is something that could hit their wallets.

“A lot of young people see the inherent danger when it comes to privacy and data concerns, but see an inherent good when it comes to TikTok,” Beren said on ABC News Live. “I think the jury is still out and a lot of people will be effected … who rely on TikTok for their income.”

Ophelia Nichols, who has more than 12.5 million followers on TikTok, said the platform is a place for connection that “helps people.” She said she uses her account, shoelover99, as a hub for “love and compassion.”

“You’ll find when you open up and share things you’ve been through or you like or what you’re doing, the people come — they find you and they see something in you they like and they just stay around,” Nichols said.

TikTok is a place where people can support one another, too. The influencer recounted how she walked a bride down the aisle after the bride reached out via TikTok.

“She reached out to me and said that, ‘Unfortunately, I don’t have a mom, could you be my mom on my wedding day and walk me down the aisle?’ and I said absolutely,” Nichols said. “So I did.”

“I was a mom for her that day,” she said.

Nichols said lawmakers don’t understand TikTok and the value it brings.

“For me as a content coordinator and a watcher, I know what TikTok does, I know what it is, what it’s for, how it helps people, I know what it does for the community and for other people,” she said. “It’s just the same as any other social media app, so I’m not really sure what the focus is on the TikTok app. I feel like they’re getting picked on or something.”

Beren said TikTok is a platform that Gen Z has used for building movements and starting conversations, but if TikTok goes away those efforts won’t stop.

“Whether TikTok is banned or not, this is cause for more conversations that I hope will be had face to face, which is where we can find real solutions,” Beren said.

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