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Tillis receives death threat related to bill banning TikTok


THERESA OPEKA, KATHERINE ZEHNDER

Carolina Journal


US Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, received a threatening voicemail from a caller who said she would “find him and shoot him and cut him into pieces” if he voted in favor of legislation to ban the social media platform TikTok. The bill passed the US House of Representatives and may come up for a vote in the Senate. 


Tillis released the voicemail on his X account on Thursday. The young woman, who threatens to shoot Tillis twice, in addition to “cutting him into pieces,” can be heard laughing throughout the message, saying that people make money from being on TikTok and that she is trying to get rich and TikTok is her only form of entertainment.


“TikTok’s misinformation campaign is pushing people to call their members of Congress, and callers like this who communicate threats against elected officials could be committing a federal crime,” Tillis said on X. “The Communist-Chinese aligned company is proving just how dangerous their current ownership is. Great work, TikTok.”


The House passed a bill on March 13 that would lead to a nationwide ban on TikTok if its China-based owner doesn’t sell its controlling stake in the company.


“TikTok, which has more than 170 million American users, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd,” reports AP. “The lawmakers contend that ByteDance is beholden to the Chinese government, which could demand access to the data of TikTok’s consumers in the U.S. whenever it wants. The worry stems from a set of Chinese national security laws that compel organizations to assist with intelligence gathering.”


Surprisingly, fellow North Carolina Congressman Jeff Jackson, D-14th, known for his heavy use of TikTok for campaign and constituent updates, voted for the bill. Following the bill’s passage in the House, Jackson received significant flak by TikTok commenters. Many others have threatened to unfollow him on account of his note on the TikTok ban, according to a CNN report. On Saturday, Jackson posted an apology video on TikTok. 

Others who voted for the bill include Rep. Alama Adams, D-12th, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, and Rep. Gregory Murphy, R-3rd. In November, Jackson will face off against Republican nominee and fellow congressman Dan Bishop, 8th, in the race for state attorney general.


Bishop voted against the bill. 


But it may be some time before the Senate even votes on a ban. Senators said on Wednesday that it may be months before a vote is taken, and they might write their own legislation instead of voting on the House bill.


The threat to Tillis speaks to a serious issue about how the culture, and in particular, young people, are becoming greatly influenced by social media.


While a report from the Mayo Clinic notes some positive things about social media, they focus on the many negative effects on teens like disruption of sleep, distraction from homework and other family activities, exposing teens to online predators, cyberbullying, and forming beliefs about people that aren’t true. In addition, the report says some interactions on social media have been linked with self-harm and, rarely, death.


North Carolina is the tenth most “social media-obsessed” state, according to a report from Hennessey Digital. The ranking is based on the number of searches for the top social media platforms per 100,000 people. North Carolina comes in at 10th place with 133,110 average monthly searches per 100,000 people. 


“The campaign analyzed online search data on Google Keyword Planner – including ‘Facebook’, ‘Instagram’, ‘TikTok’, ‘YouTube’, ‘Reddit’, ‘LinkedIn’, and ‘Pinterest’ – in each U.S. state per 100,000 people,” according to a press release from Hennessey Digital. “The states with the highest average monthly search volume over the last 12 months have been named the most social media obsessed.” 

Concern for the safety of minors online has recently come into the spotlight as Attorney General Josh Stein joins 42 other state attorneys general urging the FTC to strengthen protections online for minors, citing concerns that the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, passed in 1998, has not evolved as the internet and social media have advanced, according to a recent report by the Carolina Journal. 

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