Lawmakers Urge FTC to Investigate TikTok’s Push for Minors to Lobby Congress

House China panel leaders are concerned that TikTok ‘appears to have the unfettered ability to manipulate the American public, including America’s children.’

The House China panel has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether TikTok violated laws by pushing its users under the age of 13 to lobby Congress against a bill that would force the company’s sale from its Chinese parent.

In a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan on May 2, bipartisan leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party write that TikTok forced its users to call Congress to lobby on its behalf.

Chairman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote that in early March, days before the House passed the TikTok bill, users, including children under 13, had to give their zip codes to call their legislative representatives or shut down and restart the app to gain access to its content.

The bipartisan committee leaders said TikTok’s push notifications, which led to at least one child threatening suicide if Congress passed the bill, may have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“We are gravely concerned that an app controlled by the Chinese Communist Party appears to have the unfettered ability to manipulate the American public, including America’s children,” they wrote in their letter to Ms. Khan.

They also asked the FTC to investigate whether TikTok’s action violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, which protects consumers from “unfair” and “deceptive” acts. The lawmakers said TikTok misrepresented the bill by calling it a “TikTok shutdown.”

A TikTok spokesperson asserted that the dismissible push notifications went to adult users only.

The lawmakers’ request is the latest action against the video-sharing app, following months of sparring.

Between April 20 and 24, an amended version of the bill was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden. Bundling the bill with the foreign aid package and the issue’s broad bipartisan support contributed to its swift passage.

The amended version extended the divestiture deadline from six months to a year. If TikTok’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, doesn’t sell the app within the required timeline, the app will be banned in app stores and on web-hosting services.

ByteDance has already said that it won’t sell TikTok, and the company has vowed to fight back with legal challenges.

FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that ByteDance owns TikTok’s algorithm, which is fed by the American consumer data collectrf by the app. He said that if the Chinese authorities asked ByteDance to hand over Americans’ data, or shape the algorithm in a way that would cause Americans to fight each other, ByteDance would have to heed the CCP’s wishes.

In addition, Mr. Wray warned that if TikTok were used for Chinese influence operations, such operations would be very difficult to detect.

The joint letter was Mr. Moolenaar’s first since taking over at the House China panel after the former chair, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), left Congress on April 20.

In an email to The Epoch Times, the FTC confirmed receiving the letter and had no further comment.


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