As TikTok battles to remain in the U.S., it’s offering creators ‘free exposure’ in exchange for becoming the faces of company marketing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

TikTok is recruiting creators for global marketing campaigns as the app fights back against efforts in many Western countries to restrict its use because of concerns over ties to the Chinese government. The company is luring “hand-picked” users to this marketing program—called TikTok Amplify. In a notification received by a creator and reviewed by Fortune, TikTok is offering “free exposure” and offering to put creator videos in “TikTok ads, social media accounts or marketing campaigns around the world.”

Andrea Ballo, known to her 238,500 TikTok followers as @CocoMicheleIllustrations for her Black female empowerment art which she features on the platform, received a notification from the app that she’d been chosen for TikTok Amplify just as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress for roughly five hours on Thursday.

Creators are not given instructions to make specific content, and the Amplify invitation makes clear that “no compensation is offered.” Though Ballo said she did not receive “any context” to understand how her content would be used or altered, a representative for TikTok told Fortune the Amplify videos may be clipped. They may also appear with a caption or a call to action, like a call to download TikTok. Additionally, original music used in the video may be muted, removed or swapped out depending on regional clearances.

Though TikTok launched Amplify in 2020, it is now running in tandem with the company’s run-in with U.S. lawmakers, many of whom want to stop it from continuing to operate in the U.S. under its parent company, ByteDance.  

While Chew testified on Thursday, a different kind of marketing campaign was also underway, as TikTok creators who rely on the platform for their livelihood and communities, protested the app’s potential U.S. ban at the Capitol. “I use TikTok to share a love of my family and our journey through foster care and adoption, and through that I’ve been able to create a community of people from all over the world,” TikToker Jason Linton said in an address to a crowd gathered on Thursday on Capitol Hill. “I’m asking our politicians: Don’t take away the community that we’ve built.”

The bipartisan Congressional committee questioned Chew over the platform’s connection to the Chinese government, data harvesting, child protection and more.

Chew tried to assure politicians that TikTok has no relationship with the Chinese government. “The data of all Americans is stored in America and hosted by an American headquartered company,” he said. “Since I’ve been CEO of TikTok, I’ve not had any discussions with Chinese government officials.” 

It remains unclear how many and what types of creators TikTok targeted for its Amplify initiative. A spokesperson for TikTok kept it vague, saying the company targets users over 18 in good standing with the platform who do not use children or brands in their content for the program.

Ballo, a full-time creator whose career spans Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, has only ever made “pennies” from TikTok. She even left TikTok’s Creator Fund, the company’s major initiative to pay creators for their content, as she believed it was a “waste of time.” Ballo previously told Fortune she makes a “few hundred” every month from YouTube, but, like most creators, relies on brand partnerships from companies including candy giant Mars for her livelihood. “I personally am not someone who likes to wait around for opportunities to come to me,” says Ballo. “So being able to use these platforms to create a brand where I can create those opportunities for myself has been very beneficial.”

In addition to the uncertainty around Amplify content usage, it also remains unclear who is overseeing Amplify. Two weeks ago TikTok posted a job for a Regional Head of TikTok Content & Marketing, North America, Australia & New Zealand, that requires 15 years of relevant experience and “experience working with online communities, policymakers and media outlets” to “[set] the TikTok strategy for the market, with a primary focus on growing TikTok user base and content ecosystem in the regional market.” 

 “I feel hopeful that they think that things are going to move forward and progress with their presence in the US market,” says Ballo, who is upset about a potential TikTok ban. “Right now, [TikTok] would have to be super selective and careful of who they’re selecting to amplify if they’re trying to clean up their image.”

Correction: A previous version of the story described the Amplify program as new, when in fact it was launched in 2020.

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