TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will claim during his testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday that the platform now has 150 million active U.S. users, rather than the 100 million the company has been citing up to this point.
The 150 million does not include children under age 13, a senior Democratic strategist advising TikTok told NBC News.
Amid growing political sentiment to ban TikTok in the U.S. on national security grounds, the platform wants to make the point that it has become even more entrenched in the U.S. since 2020, when courts blocked then-President Donald Trump’s effort to ban TikTok by using executive orders under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the source said.
TikTok’s lobbying strategy will focus primarily on the argument that creators across the country rely on the platform for income, and the company has recruited several dozen creators to hold a news conference in Washington ahead of Chow’s testimony, according to another source.
“TikTok creators are small business owners trying to make a living and put food on their tables, teachers educating the next generation of leaders, and everyday innovators who represent the breadth of America,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
The Justice Department is investigating whether China-based TikTok parent ByteDance has been surreptitiously getting and using U.S. TikTok users’ data, including to spy on journalists.
President Joe Biden has indicated that he supports a bipartisan bill that would broaden the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to allow the president to implement such a ban, and last week declared that ByteDance must divest TikTok or face a ban.
President Biden already banned TikTok from U.S. government devices, but banning it entirely poses some political risk as his expected 2024 reelection bid seems poised to launch.
Of the 150 million U.S. users, about 138 million are currently 18 or older, and so of voting age, and the average age of a user is 31, according to the strategist.
A recent Quinnipiac poll showed 49% of Americans overall supporting a TikTok ban and 42% opposing it—including 64% of Republicans and 50% of independents. But 51% of Democrats oppose it, and 63% of those 18 to 34 — who tend to lean heavily Democratic — oppose it.