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TikTok Steers Its Charm Offensive Around Loudest Critics in DC

The Chinese video app has had little engagement with Republican naysayers—a strategy that could have serious consequences if national security concerns aren’t resolved.

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Photo illustration: 731; Photos: Alamy; Getty Images

There may be no more American form of unwinding than attending a football game. So when TikTok Chief Executive Officer Shouzi Chew and his government policy team had some downtime in Washington on Sept. 21, they headed about a mile and a half south of the Capitol to catch the annual Congressional Football Game. On the field, a team of lawmakers engaged in their annual tradition of getting pushed around by a team of Capitol Police officers, which is more or less the opposite dynamic of the meetings that Chew and his team have been taking lately.

TikTok, the massively popular video app owned by the Chinese company ByteDance Ltd., is facing broad hostility in DC. The White House; the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (Cfius), an interagency panel reviewing foreign investments with national security implications; and Congress are all considering actions that could significantly alter the way it operates in its biggest market. In addition to their general concerns about all social media companies, US officials worry about TikTok’s data collection polices and its relationship to the Chinese government.