ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has spent $13.4 million on lobbying in the US since 2019 as the company fights to keep its short-form video app operating in the market.
The figure was revealed by Washington DC-based nonprofit organization OpenSecrets in a recent report.
The organization, which claims to be the “premier research and government transparency group tracking money in politics and its effect on elections and policy,” said TikTok spent a record $5.3 million on federal lobbying in 2022 alone, surpassing the lobbying spending of Amazon.com, Alphabet and Facebook parent Meta.
ByteDance’s lobbying expenses have grown from $150,000 in 2019, $300,000 in 2020, to $1.95 million in 2021 and $5.3 million in 2022.
TikTok has been fighting for survival in the US following a bipartisan push by lawmakers to have the app removed, citing national security concerns.
In an attempt to woo lawmakers, TikTok CEO Shou Chew in March told the US Congress that “almost half of the US” or 150 million people use TikTok.
“Certain politicians have raised concerns about the potential banning of our platform, which would directly affect all 150 million Americans who have embraced TikTok,” the company had said.
Six more US senators last month backed a bipartisan bill to give US President Joe Biden the ability to ban TikTok on national security grounds.
Those efforts, along with growing concerns about TikTok’s alleged relaying of information to the Chinese Communist Party have led to the banning of the app on federal devices, not just in the US but in other markets like France, the UK, Canada, the European Union and New Zealand.
But even before the RESTRICT Act was pushed by lawmakers, TikTok had been hit with calls for an outright ban in the US during the Trump administration. Former President Donald Trump’s proposed ban was rejected in court in 2020.
To appease regulators, TikTok has been selling its Project Texas idea, which will see the company storing the data of all users in the US within the US.
However, Chew’s recent testimony was met with more criticism from lawmakers who are lobbying against the company including US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers who stressed that the app “should be banned.”
Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw last week said: “I want to say this to all the teenagers out there, and TikTok influencers who think we’re just old and out of touch and don’t know what we’re talking about, trying to take your favorite app.”
He added: “You may not care that your data is being accessed now, but you will be one day.”
In addition to TikTok’s spending on lobbying the US government, the company has also spent $1.5 billion over the last two years in setting up TikTok US Data Security as part of its efforts to appease regulators.
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