House offices say kids are calling with suicide threats over bill regulating TikTok

Congressional staffers are reporting non-stop calls from constituents opposed to the bill, and some have even said that they are being forced to make the call before they can use the app.

Published: March 7, 2024 2:28pm

Congress is set to advance a bipartisan bill Thursday that will regulate TikTok, sparking the social media platform to launch an effort urging users to call their representatives, which has resulted in reports of disturbing threats being directed toward lawmakers.

At least two House offices have said that they've received calls from U.S. children threatening suicide if the bill passes, according to The Spectator.

"It’s so so bad. Our phones have not stopped ringing. They’re teenagers and old people saying they spend their whole day on the app and we cant [sic] take it away," one GOP congressional staffer told a Politico reporter. 

TikTok is sending alerts to users stating that "Congress is planning a total ban of TikTok," and it is asking for users to put their zip code before directing them to a "Call Now" page to contact their representatives.

Congressional staffers also said that callers have told them that they are being forced to make the call in order to use the app, per CNBC.

TikTok spent more than $8.7 million in lobbying last year, per, after the company's CEO testified before Congress. TikTok also sponsored daily newsletters for news outlets such as The Hill and Politico. 

Lawmakers have insisted that the bill is not a ban. If the bill passes, TikTok's China-based parent company, ByteDance, will have 165 days to sell the platform.

"This bill, again, is not a ban, and it’s not really about TikTok. It’s a choice," Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, ranking member of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said. "We implore ByteDance to sell Tiktok so that its American users can enjoy their dance videos, their bad lip-synch, everything else that goes with Tiktok."

"The frantic, deranged lobbying from TikTok, including alleged suicide threats, is a reminder: This app is toxic. It's poison," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Thursday on X, formerly Twitter. "We will be far better off and safer if this spy tool for the Chinese Communist Party is banned."

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also took note of the outrage, writing: "TikTok influencers are real mad about the bipartisan legislation we are gonna pass today. I get it, your favorite digital drug is under threat."

He warned that China could use the platform to launch "potentially the most far-reaching psych warfare operation in history."

The popular app is already banned on nearly all executive branch devices and government-owned devices in most states over concerns that ByteDance is subject to China's laws that force companies to share user data with the government. 

The bill, which has 19 cosponsors, is heading to the House Commerce Committee on Thursday for markup, the last step required before a bill becomes a law. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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