Congress getting ‘thousands’ of phone calls from youth urging lawmakers to block TikTok bill: Rep. Chip Roy

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Members of Congress have been overwhelmed by “thousands” of callers urging lawmakers to reconsider a bill that would ban TikTok in the United States.  

The bill advanced out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on Thursday in a unanimous bipartisan vote — 50-0.

In the run-up to Thursday’s vote, many TikTok users received a notification urging them to “speak up now – before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.” 

The notification warned that the “ban” on TikTok would damage millions of businesses and destroy the lives of countless creators around the country. Users were prompted to enter their zip code and given a link to call their representative. 

A senior GOP aide told FOX Business that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were livid over these notifications and the subsequent calls they received. 

Many were young teenagers, pleading with Congress not to “ban TikTok.” Some even threatened to kill themselves should the bill go through and another person threatened to assassinate a member of Congress if they voted for this. 

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“TikTok fires everybody up and then our offices are getting called with thousands of people calling up. Some kid called in, said they were gonna commit suicide. We have people calling in saying, ‘I’m on this all day long, every day. You can’t take this away from me,’” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told FOX Business in an interview. “It’s like we called into an AA meeting.” 

Roy, who was one of the lead co-sponsors of the bill, noted that many lawmakers who were on the fence “got off the fence real quickly when they saw what was going on.” 

“I think everybody is becoming very aware of the extent to which TikTok is targeting our people. And that we are daring to challenge that is causing them to react very strongly because they don’t want to have to go through that and divest and we’re going to say, ‘yeah, you do.’” 

TikTok ByteDance China

Roy clarified that he and other lawmakers were not irked by the calls themselves but by the fact that TikTok – a Chinese-owned entity – wielded its technology to influence its users on a political issue.  

“It’s clear how much TikTok has their tentacles into these people’s lives and it’s so much so that they’re using data to target them,” Roy said. 

The bill has gained the support of House Speaker Mike Johnson and could soon move to the House floor for a full vote. 

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Should it pass, the bill would require TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance to divest the platform and other applications within 180 days or those applications will be banned in the United States. The bill would also create a narrow process to let the executive branch prohibit access to an app owned by a foreign adversary if it threatens national security. 

Lawmakers have argued that Beijing could force TikTok on American users. TikTok insists it hasn’t done so and wouldn’t if asked. 

The company has argued that the bill is an “outright ban,” amounting to a violation of free speech. 

TikTok download app store

“This legislation will trample the First Amendment rights of 170 million Americans and deprive 5 million small businesses of a platform they rely on to grow and create jobs,” the company said in a statement. 

Rep. Mike Gallagher, the GOP chairman of a special House committee, who introduced the bill in conjunction with ranking member Raja Krishamoorthi, focused on China, rejecting the idea of a ban, saying the bill was an effort to force a change in TikTok’s ownership. He also took issue with TikTok urging some users to call their representatives and urge them to vote no on the bill.

“Today, it’s about our bill and it’s about intimidating members considering that bill, but tomorrow it could be misinformation or lies about an election, about a war, about any number of things,” Gallagher said. “This is why we can’t take a chance on having a dominant news platform in America controlled or owned by a company that is beholden to the Chinese Communist Party, our foremost adversary.”

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To appease U.S. lawmakers, TikTok has vowed to separate U.S. users’ data from ByteDance through a third-party entity that is run independently and monitored by outside observers. The company said new user data is currently being stored on servers managed by the software company Oracle. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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