Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance increased U.S. lobbying spend by 130%


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TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance had its biggest lobbying quarter yet, 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 Q1 lobbying spend 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 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 ByteDance and TikTok did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

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

TikTok has said it does not store U.S. user data in China and that it would not hand over such information to the 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 U.S. user data. A TikTok spokesperson told BuzzFeed at the time it continuously works to validate its security standards including through independent third party tests.

Shortly before that article was published last month, TikTok released a blog post announcing that through its partnership with Oracle, it’s “changed the default storage location of US user data” so that “100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”

“We still use our U.S. and Singapore data centers for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the U.S.,” the company added.

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