by Chris White
TikTok has hired several Democratic and Republican operatives to lobby the U.S. governmental amid concerns that the social media platform represents a national security threat.
The company hired several operatives recently to lobby on TikTok’s behalf, including Michael Hacker, who worked as a senior advisor to Democratic House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, CNBC reported Friday. TikTok hired two executives from the Internet Association as well, according to the report.
TikTok also hired Freddy Barnes, a former longtime staffer for Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, according to Barnes’s LinkedIn page. Derrick Dockery, a former congressional press assistant to former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan, has joined Barnes as one of the company’s lobbyists on governmental affairs.
Barnes and Dockery’s LinkedIn pages indicate they were hired in June.
News of the hiring spree came on the heels of reports that the Trump administration is considering the possibility of banning the social media platform over concerns that the video app shares U.S. user data to Beijing.
Sen. Josh Hawley and other lawmakers have scrutinized TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. The Missouri Republican warned in a March press statement that ByteDance “includes Chinese Communist Party members in leadership,” adding that “TikTok has admitted that it has sent user data to China.”
Politicians from both parties have criticized the app.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York asked the U.S. intelligence community to assess TikTok’s national security risks in October, saying that such apps could be used to spy on U.S. citizens or become targets of foreign influence campaigns.
TikTok promised to stop accessing users’ content on iOS devices in June, the Telegraph reported, after a new feature in iOS 14 indicated the company had not stopped collecting data despite pledging to end the practice in 2019. Users had noticed that TikTok had been scanning content on the clipboard while the app was in background mode, according to the Telegraph.
TikTok reportedly provided people in Congress with communication reassuring them that “TikTok is not beholden to China.” Saagar Enjeti, co-host of The Hill’s Rising with Krystal & Saagar, tweeted a memo Friday that was purportedly sent to congressional aides.
Sources are now sharing w/ me TikTok government affairs emails sent to Hill Staffers put together by former staffers of Dems including Jim Clyburn and former R's including Kevin McCarthy
Today they PROMISE them they're not beholden to the Chinese government pic.twitter.com/KLyj6MKXlF
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) July 10, 2020
The memo noted that TikTok hired former Walt Disney Company executive Kevin Mayer as the company’s new chief executive. Mayer’s new position with the company was announced in May.
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Chris White is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.