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TikTok begs users to tell Congress not to ban it

When some American users opened TikTok on Thursday morning, they were met with a full-screen message encouraging them to call Congress and say no to a TikTok ban.

"Speak up now -- before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression," the screen says. "Let Congress know what TikTok means to you and tell them to vote NO."

Below the message, users can click a red "call now" button.

TikTok users received a pop-up about the potential ban
TikTok users received a pop-up about the potential ban

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot obtained by TechCrunch

TikTok has been under scrutiny in the United States for a while. Last year, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress for five hours, addressing lawmakers' concerns about Chinese authorities accessing American data (TikTok, an American company, is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company). Chew has repeatedly stated that TikTok and ByteDance are not conduits for the Chinese government. There is no evidence that the Chinese government has accessed Americans' TikTok user data, but in a separate incident, ByteDance employees were fired for gaining access to the IP addresses of journalists to track their location.

TikTok is banned on government-issued phones in dozens of states. This week, the app's struggles in the U.S. government escalated when a bill was introduced that would give the president the ability to identify social media apps that are threats to national security, which would remove them from app stores. The bill's sponsors are urging TikTok to sever its ties with ByteDance to avoid this fate, or else it could lose its 170 million American users.

TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch that this message appeared for users 18+ in the United States, but based on our own testing, not all users in that demographic received the pop-up.

The platform has previously tapped its community to support its battles in Congress. When Chew made his first appearance in Congress last year, TikTok invited a group of creators, including Vitus Spehar (UnderTheDeskNews), to go to D.C. to lobby on the app's behalf.

“Congress made clear that they don’t understand TikTok, they don’t listen to their constituents who are in the community of TikTokers — and are using this TikTok hysteria as a way to pass legislation that gives them superpowers to ban any app they deem ‘unsafe’ in the future,” Spehar told TechCrunch at the time.