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A Congressman Lost 200,000 Followers After He Voted for a TikTok Ban

3 minute read

North Carolina Rep. Jeff Jackson is losing thousands of TikTok followers after he voted “yes” on a bill that would effectively ban the app in the U.S. unless its parent company, ByteDance, sells TikTok. Jackson, who gained over two million followers on TikTok, voted yes on the bill passed by the House of Representatives on March 13 in a 352-65 vote.

Jackson lost over 100,000 followers on TikTok that day, according to the social media analytics site Social Blade. He has since lost a total of over 200,000. Over the weekend, Jackson released a video apologizing to his followers who felt his vote was “hypocritical.”

On Saturday, Jackson posted a video on TikTok saying he did not “handle this situation well from top to bottom.” He continued, “If I were in your shoes, I would probably feel the same way. I would see someone who used this app to build a following and appears to have voted against it, and I would be upset.” Jackson said in the video that he was a part of some briefings about this app that “were genuinely alarming” and said he believes TikTok would be better “if we didn’t have to worry about the stuff that comes with it being potentially controlled by an adversarial government. The part I didn’t like is the part that threatens a ban.”

The freshman Democratic congressman has used TikTok to speak candidly about what it’s like to be a member of Congress and share his thoughts on recent political events, such as the expulsion of Rep. George Santos and President Joe Biden's State of the Union address. On TikTok, people were drawn to his no-nonsense attitude and his ability to speak about politics in a digestible way.

The North Carolina representative said that the chance of the app getting banned is “practically zero for a lot of reasons: financial, political, geopolitical.” The day the bill was passed through the House, he uploaded a video explaining his stance on the bill. Representatives for Jackson declined to comment further.

The comments section on Jackson’s TikTok videos is filled with users who were not ready to accept his apology. “You just finally showed your true colors,” one person wrote. All politicians are the same, yourself included.” Another person added, “Getting a US company to own this app isn't really solving your concerns. The answer is creating data protection laws for Americans, not app-by-app legislation.” Others called the representative a “sellout” and urged more people to unfollow him.

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com