Dear President Biden: TikTokers Pen Open Letter to ‘Stop the Ban’

TikTokers Pen Open Letter to Ask President Biden to Stop TikTok Ban
Open Letter Dear President Biden TikTok Ban Scisetti Alfio/Adobe Stock kasheev/Adobe Stock ArChe1993/Shutterstock

As lawmakers in the United States resume conversations about legislation determining the future of TikTok, an 18-person collective of creators with a combined reach of over 16 million followers released an open letter today urging President Joe Biden to stop a potential ban on the app.

“Dear President Biden, banning TikTok would be a serious error,” the letter reads. “Many of us rely on TikTok for income, supporting ourselves and our families while also inspiring others to do the same. This aligns with your focus on job creation and economic prosperity for Americans, particularly the younger generation.”

Dear President Biden

Nadya Okamoto, a content creator with over 4 million followers on TikTok, is spearheading the ‘Dear President Biden’ effort. She is also the founder of August, a period care brand that went viral on TikTok in late 2021. Okamoto has a history of organizing around political issues like the “tampon tax.” 

“I don’t want to go down without a fight and having done nothing,” Okamoto told Passionfruit. “This has bipartisan support, and it’s moving at a speed that requires us to take it very seriously.”


President Biden, please don’t take away our silly little videos #keeptiktok

♬ original sound – Nadya Okamoto

Other notable creators with their names on the open letter include Morgan Presley (5.6 million followers), Jessica Fuen (2.4 million), Jennifer Mika (1.1 million), Issa Okamoto (933K followers), Tiffany Remington (741K), Grey and Grayson (209K), Liah Yoo (170K), and Fiona Chan (190K).

“We’ve heard of potential bans before, but when the house passed the bill last month, we started thinking more seriously about the impact on our business,” Chan, the creator behind the popular TikTok makeup brand Youthforia, told Passionfruit in a statement.

“I think it would be productive for politicians to listen to small business owners about the challenges and realities of trying to grow a small business in today’s environment,” she continued. “It isn’t easy.”

What is Congress doing about TikTok?

As previously covered by Passionfruit, on March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” bill with a 352-65 vote.

If signed into law, it would allow the president to label social media platforms as national security threats under the control of “foreign adversaries,” like China. Once the President determines an app to be a “risk,” the government would force app stores to ban the app. That is, unless it wholly severed ties with these countries within 180 days.

In TikTok’s case, owned by China-based ByteDance, the company would have to quickly sell its assets to a U.S. buyer. Or, it would have to leave the U.S. entirely.

The Senate will vote on the bill in the coming months. Experts anticipate legal challenges in the Senate. But if passed, it would head to President Biden, who could sign it into law.

Does the White House use TikTok?

In March 2024, the White House signaled support for the bill. This is despite Biden recently joining the platform to appeal to young voters himself.

“In an election year, alienating young voters by banning TikTok would be counterproductive,” the letter to President Biden reads. “The platform has proven to be invaluable for education on various issues, including vaccine information and voter registration.”

Gen Z and millennial voters proved decisive for Biden’s election in 2020, with higher than usual voter turnout. This secured Biden a 24-percentage-point lead for voters under the age of 30 in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

But, Biden appears to be losing favor with young voters. According to a 2024 survey of voters between the ages of 18 and 34, Biden only has a 4-point lead over Trump.

TikTok’s data security concerns

The open letter about the TikTok ban specifically notes that TikTok has spent over $1.5 billion to secure user data through “Project Texas.” The project rolled out in July 2022 in response to U.S. threats of a TikTok ban. TikTok attempted to onshore all U.S. user data locally, onto Texas-based cloud servers by tech company Oracle.

TikTok has faced criticism numerous times for sharing U.S. user data with its China-based parent company, ByteDance in recent years (notably, in a Fortune investigation earlier this week). But, TikTok says that as of June 2022, “100%” of U.S. traffic goes to U.S.-based servers. It says it is in the process of deleting “historical” data overseas.

The group of creators signing the open letter says that “while national security is paramount,” the majority of TikTok users “do not feel endangered.” They note that rather than a blanket TikTok ban, legislators could implement stronger firewall measures or broader data privacy laws to address national security.

“There’s all this concern about personal data leakage and everything like that. But when I talk to other TikTok users or creator friends of mine, none of us are concerned about that,” Nadya told Passionfruit.

#KeepTikTok trended on social media after the bill passed in March 2024. The app has also sent push alerts urging users to contact their representatives in opposition to it. Also in March, TikTok paid for Nadya’s flight to Washington D.C. There, she met with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to discuss the pending bill, which Gillibrand supports.


Quick trip to DC to meet with one of the NY Senator’s team #KeepTikTok

♬ original sound – Nadya Okamoto

“On the frustrating side, we didn’t leave having changed each other’s minds. She’s been very outspoken about support for this bill,” Okamoto described. “But the hopeful part of it was that they were interested in hearing my thoughts, my concerns. And I think what we could align on is that if this were a true divestment bill, it would be a different conversation.”

Will TikTok sell to the U.S.?

What Okamato is referring to is concerns that this bill isn’t designed to allow TikTok to truly “divest,” aka sell, its assets to a U.S. buyer.

It could be too “complicated and costly” to sell in such a short time frame of 180 days, some experts say. This would mean TikTok would likely fully disappear in the U.S.  

Some supporters of the bill are adamant that it will allow TikTok to sell. This includes the bill’s co-authors, Representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi. Meanwhile, other supporters have explicitly said they intend to ban TikTok with the bill. This includes legislators like Dan Crenshaw, Elise Stefanik, Chip Roy, and Ken Buck.

“Let’s address the reality of this bill. It’s not about divestment; if it were, we’d be willing to engage in constructive dialogue to facilitate a transition while safeguarding our freedom of expression,” the open letter reads. “Instead, this bill outright bans TikTok, with its authors and congressional supporters openly expressing their desire to do so.”

Experts estimate TikTok is worth more than $100 billion, which some suggest is too expensive for most companies to purchase. Those who could purchase it, including Meta, Google, or Microsoft, are unlikely to attempt the purchase for fear of unwanted antitrust attention.

It would take time to jump through regulatory hoops to clear such a purchase in the U.S. Not to mention, leaders in China have pledged that they will attempt to block a sale.

What will happen to influencers if TikTok is banned or sold?

Even if TikTok could accomplish a sale, there’s also no telling what a U.S. buyer might change if it were to acquire the platform.

“Any large-scale economic or infrastructural shift — such as the proposed divesture — ​is bound to impact the working lives of influencers and small-business owners who depend upon the platform for access to globally dispersed audiences,” Cornell professor Brooke Erin Duffy, who studies social media, told Passionfruit in March after the bill passed in the House.

For her part, Okamoto is urging creators to go to the “Dear President Biden” website and sign the letter. “I think for people who want to get involved, this is something to talk to your legislators about,” Okamoto said.

Chan agreed. “TikTok has been such a big source of growth for us as a small business, and it’s important to express that,” she said. “An outright ban on one of the great sources of growth for so many American small businesses would be counterproductive.”

What do you think about this open letter and a potential TikTok ban? Email to share your insight.

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