Advertisement

Enraged Teens Flood Congress With ‘Nonstop’ Calls to Kill Anti-TikTok Bill

Congress is learning a tough lesson this Thursday: Don’t fuck with teens and their scrolling.

Teenagers are often (mistakenly) considered to be a generally politically apathetic demographic. Many of them can’t vote, so lawmakers tend to overlook younger Americans’ role in shaping culture and political movements. But as lawmakers consider new legislation that would potentially ban the social media app TikTok, congressional offices are being flooded with calls from teenagers livid over the prospect of losing one of their favorite platforms.

One House Republican aide describes the experience to Rolling Stone as a “nonstop” barrage of phone calls and messages this week from “shrieking teens” demanding that lawmakers pull the anti-TikTok bill. Some self-described teenagers and adults have called to say that such a law would ruin their lives or jobs, or cause them to vote against the congressmembers responsible.

“Considering the call volume, you’d think we were trying to repeal and replace Obamacare again,” the GOP congressional staffer observes. Another Republican congressional office confirmed that they are getting calls from “a good amount of the teenage population [and] some adults too.”

A Democratic lawmaker also tells Rolling Stone that though they aren’t even on the House committee leading this charge, “my office has been getting a ton” of angry phone calls on this matter: “It’s pretty crazy.” A Democratic staffer said the calls are “basically all we got this morning.”

One Republican staffer told Politico that their “phones have not stopped ringing. They’re teenagers and old people saying they spend their whole day on the app and we can’t take it away.”

TikTok itself is taking part in the offensive. The app, which has over 170 million users in the United States alone, has launched a tool to connect users with their congressional offices. “Congress is planning a total ban of TikTok,” the landing page says. “Speak up now–before your government strips 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression.”

“This will damage millions of businesses, destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country, and deny artists an audience,” the page adds.

The proposed bill, titled the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, is one of several attempts by Congress in recent years to limit the reach of TikTok — a subsidiary of the Chinese company ByteDance — in the United States. Lawmakers have been prompted by concerns that TikTok could be used to conduct surveillance by gathering American user data for exploitation by the Chinese government, a claim the company vehemently denies.

“As of July 2022, all new U.S. user data is stored automatically in Oracle’s U.S. Cloud infrastructure, and access is managed exclusively by the TikTok US Data Security team,” the company says on its data security fact sheet. “To help ensure that there is no unauthorized access to our systems, such as no ‘backdoors’ or data leakage, Oracle and a third-party source code inspector will work to ensure that everything is performing as intended.”

The new bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) would require TikTok to wholly separate itself from its parent company or incur an outright ban from app stores. The bill would also create “a process for the President to designate certain, specifically defined social media applications that are subject to the control of a foreign adversary — per Title 10 — and pose a national security risk. Designated applications will face a prohibition on app store availability and web hosting services in the U.S. unless they sever ties to entities subject to the control of a foreign adversary through divestment.”

A hearing on the bill is taking place in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

Rep. Gallagher, the chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, said in a Tuesday statement that he has one message for TikTok, which is to “break up with the Chinese Communist Party or lose access to your American users.”

While Gallagher and other lawmakers seem prepared to sever America’s access to TikTok, they may have underestimated the backlash from America’s teens.

As My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way put it, “teenagers scare the living shit out of me,” and the mass of infuriated adolescents declaring war on lawmakers might just strike the fear of their political power into Congress.

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone