A PYMNTS Company

Chinese TikTok Owner Increased US Lobbying Spending

 |  July 21, 2022

TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance had its biggest lobbying quarter ever, spending more than $2.1 million in the second quarter to lobby the U.S. government, according to its disclosure filed Wednesday in a federal database.

That represents a 130% increase from ByteDance’s spending the previous quarter and marks the first time it’s topped $2 million in a single quarter since it first registered lobbying disclosures in 2019. The company spent about $4.7 million on lobbying in all of 2021, according to the disclosures.

The company lobbied on a variety of issues. One piece of legislation it discussed was the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the key antitrust bill that would prohibit dominant tech platforms from favoring their own offerings over those of rivals that rely on their services. It also lobbied on the two versions of a large funding bill aimed at boosting American competitiveness against China, a handful of online privacy bills, a defense spending bill and a bill to ban TikTok from Department of Homeland Security devices.

ByteDance engaged with both chambers of Congress during the quarter as well as executive agencies including the departments of Commerce, Defense, State and the Executive Office of the President, according to the filing.

The lobbying disclosures don’t elaborate on what exactly ByteDance was pushing for and both the parent company and TikTok did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

TikTok’s Chinese ownership has complicated its relationship with Washington as many lawmakers are skeptical about how secure it can keep U.S. user data while believing that Beijing could compel ByteDance to hand over information.

TikTok has said it does not store US user data in China and that it would not hand over such information to the Chinese government. But lawmaker skepticism has persisted and was recently reignited by a BuzzFeed News report that found Chinese-based ByteDance employees were able to access nonpublic US user data. A TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed at the time it continuously works to validate its security standards including through independent third-party tests.

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.