Chris Smith said TikTok’s lobby campaign targeting minors was ‘greatly disturbing’

TikTok’s effort to recruit American kids as ‘foreign agents’ for China against ban may backfire: ‘Disturbing’

Chris Smith said TikTok’s lobby campaign targeting minors was ‘greatly disturbing’

By Brianna Herlihy

FIRST ON FOX — A lawmaker leading the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a scathing notice to social media company TikTok for allegedly “targeting” children who use the platform to lobby members of Congress against a bill that could effectively ban the app.

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to the House floor that would require TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance to fully divest all of its applications within 180 days or risk a ban on those apps.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in a letter to TikTok Friday, accused the company of “targeting American children with Chinese Communist Party propaganda — during school hours — and recruiting minors to act as foreign agents for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)” after lawmakers received a “deluge” of calls from kids not wanting to lose access to the app.

“The fact that children were not only used to advance this agenda but were targeted to be the primary agents of lobbying Congress on behalf of a foreign power is greatly disturbing,” the letter states.

“The policies and practices of ByteDance and TikTok represent an attempt by the CCP to assert their authoritarian agenda through soft power.”

“The manipulation of TikTok users – especially children – to lobby on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party’s interests by inundating congressional offices, including mine, with phone calls only underscores the urgent need for strong action to combat the CCP’s malign influence, which extends far beyond its borders even to Americans,” Smith said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

As chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Smith said he “extensively monitored the policies and methods the People’s Republic of China (PRC) security forces have employed to exert intrusive social controls over their own population.

“As you know, TikTok parent ByteDance, which is headquartered in the PRC with offices in Bejing, is compelled to participate in a strategic partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. It appears the corporate structure of Bytedance Ltd., ByteTeam Ltd., TikTok Ltd., TikTok LLC and TikTok Inc. are designed to provide layers of insulation to the CCP in its attempts to transform the character of America’s social fabric.

“There is no way a business entity located in the PRC may avoid partnership with the Chinese Communist Party, and there is no reason for the United States Congress to believe TikTok is able to avoid compliance with CCP demands that advance its authoritarian practices around the world, including demands that violate the human rights of those they deem undeserving of basic human dignity.”

Smith said it is “imperative that Congress determine whether the CCP, directly or indirectly, demanded TikTok use children to lobby Congress on their behalf” and gave the company seven days to provide all internal documentation related to the genesis, approval and execution of the advocacy campaign.

In speaking to Fox News Friday, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who co-authored the bipartisan bill, said TikTok’s lobbying efforts “completely backfired.”

“[T]hat proves the point of why people wanted to pass the legislation,” Krishnamoorthi said. “The fact that they use geolocation targeting to go after minor children to call congressional offices with misinformation about the bill caused so many members on the U.S. committee to vote in favor of the bill. That’s precisely the reason for the bill.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.