According to a statement filed Wednesday in a federal database, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, spent more than $2.1 million in the second quarter to influence the US government.
This is a 130 percent increase over ByteDance’s expenditure in the previous quarter, and it is the first time it has spent more than $2 million in a single quarter since it began filing lobbying filings in 2019. According to the records, the corporation spent around $4.7 million on lobbying in 2021.
The firm lobbied on a number of subjects. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a crucial antitrust law that would restrict dominant internet platforms from favoring their own products over those of competitors that depend on their services, was one of the bills considered. It also pushed on two versions of a huge financing measure aimed at increasing American competitiveness against China, a slew of online privacy laws, a military spending bill, and legislation to prohibit TikTok from Department of Homeland Security equipment.
According to the filing, ByteDance worked with both houses of Congress as well as executive agencies such as the departments of Commerce, Defense, State, and the Executive Office of the President during the quarter.
The lobbying forms do not detail on what ByteDance was advocating for, and neither the parent company nor TikTok responded quickly to CNBC’s requests for comment.
TikTok’s Chinese ownership has complicated its relationship with Washington, as many politicians are concerned about how safe it can keep U.S. user data while also worrying that Beijing may force ByteDance to send over information.
TikTok has said that it does not keep US customer data in China and would not provide such information to the Chinese authorities. However, lawmakers’ suspicion has lingered, and was recently sparked by a BuzzFeed News article revealing that Chinese-based ByteDance personnel had access to nonpublic U.S. user data. At the time, a TikTok spokeswoman told BuzzFeed that the company is always working to confirm our security standards, including via independent third-party testing.
Shortly before that piece was published last month, TikTok announced on its blog that, thanks to its relationship with Oracle, it had “changed the default storage location of US user data” so that “100% of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.”
“While we continue to use our U.S. and Singapore data centers for backup, we expect to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the United States,” the company added.