Two of the most prominent newsletters in Washington D.C., often read by members of Congress and other political actors, have been paid to place ads for the Chinese-owned social media company TikTok.
The Daily Caller reports that the February editions of Axios AM and Politico Playbook both feature advertisements for TikTok; Axios featured the notice of being “presented by TikTok” at the very top of its latest newsletter on Tuesday, while Politico’s last notice of being presented by TikTok was on February 19th.
TikTok is a platform that features users posting short, vertically-shot videos, often for the purpose of lip-syncing popular songs, and has amassed millions of users. The platform is owned by ByteDance, a tech firm based in China that has ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the ruling political party. Over 300 employees of TikTok and ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state-run media, and there have long been accusations that TikTok is actively collecting the personal data of its users for government purposes.
In response to criticism over the advertisements, Politico issued a statement declaring that “no advertiser—or advertisement—affects or influences POLITICO’s journalism, editorial decision making, and news judgment.”
“There is a strong firewall between POLITICO’s newsroom and its revenue generating business teams—a wall that applies in both directions,” the statement continued. “Our business and teams have no influence whatsoever on editorial content, and our reporters and editors have no input or role in our advertising or client relationships.”
In recent years, TikTok has come under widespread scrutiny from both political parties. President Donald Trump openly supported an outright ban on the platform’s use within the United States, while multiple states have proposed or passed legislations to ban the use of the app on government-issued devices; last year, the federal omnibus spending package included a provision to ban TikTok from government devices.
ByteDance spent at least $5.3 million on its federal lobbying efforts in 2022 as it attempted to fight such restrictions, and is expected to continue lobbying in 2023.