Lawmakers Demand Probe Into Allegations Of TikTok Using Children To Lobby Congress

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Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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Members of the House of Representatives have called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate allegations that TikTok tried to use children to lobby against legislation targeting the company Thursday, according to a letter first obtained by NBC News.

Republican Michigan Rep. John Moolenaar and Democratic Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, members of the House’s China committee, wrote the letter first obtained by NBC News. They alleged that TikTok may have used “intrusive and deceptive pop-up messages to a reportedly large number of users, including children” that encouraged them to lobby against the passage of the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act.

The proposed measure was passed by the House on March 13 by a vote of 352 to 65, but failed in the Senate. The foreign aid supplemental advanced by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson passed first the House and then the Senate and contained a measure aimed and pressuring ByteDance to sell TikTok in roughly nine months. The bill was signed into law by Biden on April 24. (RELATED: Meet The Former Lawmakers Who Helped Spearhead TikTok’s Multi-Million Dollar Lobbying Effort On Capitol Hill)

The two congressmembers alleged in their letter that Tiktok’s message communicated “verifiably false information to a reportedly large number of its users regarding the legal implications of the Act.” The two observed that there were reports that the campaign allegedly “impacted ‘young children in classrooms’ and others who appeared to be under the age of 13” and that this solicitation allegedly “resulted in at least one instance of threatened self-harm, with a Congressional office reporting a call from a child threatening suicide.”

Reps. Molenaar and Krishnamoorthi called on the FTC to probe whether TikTok indeed engaged in such practices and whether such conduct violated the Terms of Service of the platform, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, “and Section 5 of the FTC Act,” the letter read.

TikTok denied the allegations to NBC News. “This letter doesn’t pass the smell test,” a spokesperson for the social media company told the outlet.

“As we’ve said repeatedly, these notifications went to users aged 18 and older and users receiving them always had multiple options to dismiss the notification. It is disheartening that Members of Congress are expressing concern simply because they heard from their own constituents imploring them not to pass a bill trampling on their First Amendment rights,” the spokesperson told NBC News.