TikTok doubles ad buy to fight potential U.S. ban as Congress moves to fast-track legislation

Giovanna Gonzalez of Chicago demonstrates outside the U.S. Capitol following a press conference by TikTok creators to voice their opposition to the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act,” pending crackdown legislation on TikTok in the House of Representatives, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 12, 2024. 

Craig Hudson | Reuters

TikTok more than doubled its ad spend to over $4.5 million in a campaign to combat a potential U.S. ban as Congress looks to fast-track legislation to push parent company ByteDance to divest the social media app.

TikTok has spent over $2.5 million on television ads alone since March, according to data from AdImpact. The popular social media company has spent almost $900,000 on digital advertisements, according to the data.

The data from AdImpact in late March showed TikTok initially purchased $2.1 million in advertising.

The House recently tied a new bill with legislation providing further aid to Ukraine and Israel that, if signed into law, would give ByteDance nine months to divest TikTok or the app would be banned in the U.S. The House could vote on the bill as soon as Saturday.

President Joe Biden has said he would sign such a bill into law if it came to his desk. The bill contains a provision that would allow ByteDance an additional 90 days from the nine-month divestiture period if there is progress toward a sale.

TikTok’s boosted ad spend could act as a last stand as the new bill appears to have key support in the Senate.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., endorsed the bill on Wednesday, praising the extension it would give to ByteDance to potentially divest TikTok. Cantwell and her committee would be responsible for reviewing the bill if it passes the House.

The House passed a similar TikTok bill in March, which gave the company roughly six months to divest the asset. That legislation has since stalled in the Senate.

Since March, the company reserved TV advertising in the key battleground states of Nevada, Montana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio. All five states are represented by vulnerable Senate Democrats, each of whom is running for another six-year term.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is running for reelection in Pennsylvania while TikTok has spent over $690,000 on ads in that state, according to AdImpact.

The ads represent the latest effort by TikTok to make a dent in the Washington debate over whether ByteDance could protect U.S. TikTok users’ personal data from China’s government.

One of the TikTok ads that started airing in early April in markets that included Pittsburgh is titled “Keep It.” Similar to the other company ads, it argues that U.S. businesses use TikTok to promote their brands and ends with #KeepTikTok. The app has over 150 million U.S. users.

Another TikTok ad called “Freedom Of Speech” has aired in Philadelphia.

TikTok users previously swamped congressional offices with calls demanding that members vote against the ban. The number of these calls soared after TikTok encouraged their users through the app to demand lawmakers not pass the first House bill.

A spokesperson for TikTok declined to comment.

NBC News’ Benjamin Kamisar contributed to this story

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