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TikTok hearing: Representatives' views on TikTok were 'sort of devastating,' small business owner says

Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book Owner breaks down how a potential U.S. government ban of TikTok would effect small business owners nationwide.

Video transcript

SEANA SMITH: TikTok CEO Shou Chew facing a bipartisan grilling from the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. We heard a lot of talk about the negative sides of the app and why it should be banned.

- TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you, manipulate what you see, and exploit for future generations.

- Providing harmful content directly to children.

- Your algorithm can promote suicide, self harm, and eating disorders. It's also a portal for drug dealers.

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- This video has been up for 41 days. It is a direct threat to the chairwoman of this committee. I think that is a blatant display of how vulnerable people who use TikTok are.

- Your platform should be banned.

SEANA SMITH: Despite these risks supplied by lawmakers, TikTok is incredibly popular. How popular? 150 million people use the app in the US. And it's certainly a very powerful marketing tool for many small businesses, including our next guest. Joining us now is Carrie Deming, owner of the Dog Eared Book in New York. Carrie, it's great to see you. And I know you rely on TikTok, or I should say, TikTok helps generate a large portion of your sales. What was your reaction to some of the concerns brought up from lawmakers yesterday and what that means for you and your business?

CARRIE DEMING: Honestly, watching those hearings, I didn't get to watch the whole thing. But I saw a number of the clips from it afterwards. And it was sort of devastating, their perspective on TikTok. And as a small business owner, it's been massively beneficial. Since I joined TikTok two years ago, the growth of my bookstore has been exponential. And if I lose TikTok, that all just goes away overnight. It's kind of a terrifying proposition.

DAVE BRIGGS: Yeah, the CEO of Barnes and Noble recently told us, Carrie, that TikTok has fueled an explosion in reading as far as his business has seen. We want to tell people a little bit about what you do on TikTok to your 97,000+ followers. Here's a little example.

CARRIE DEMING: So, hi. My name is Carrie. And I own this bookstore, the Dog Eared Book.

Of course, I can help pick out some great intro to fantasy books.

It's another out of control New Book Tuesday.

Publishers are not the ones who decide what's stocked in my store. I get to choose that.

So I brought our clearance cart back. We're just trying to get a buck a book for some of these.

I want to try this, too, the fantasy book bracket.

This is going to be my first ever BookTok Lied to Me post.

And look, look, look, there I am, second review. OK, they got the name of my bookstore wrong, but close enough!

DAVE BRIGGS: BookTok with more than 45 billion views recently, Carrie. Tell us about the TikTok you know versus the one that was described yesterday and how you utilize it.

CARRIE DEMING: I mean, the TikTok I know, it looks nothing like what they were talking about. I'm on BookTok. It is the most wholesome corner of any of the internet. And with BookTok, we have this amazing community. And people feel like they know me because I'm in their living room every single day with book recommendations and general book silliness.

And I feel like I know them. People are-- we're mutuals talking about books. I see the same people in my comment section all the time. And then so many of those people recognize their names on orders after I'm like, oh, hey, we were just talking, and then they order that book. It's nothing like what they were talking about in those hearings. It's just this happy, little, cozy place where we talk about books.

SEANA SMITH: It sounds wonderful. And Carrie, I loved your videos, and I love the positivity and how upbeat you are about them. And it's no surprise that TikTok is so addicting when we talk about the content, we talk about the algorithms that TikTok uses. Do you have a presence on other platforms? And what happens if TikTok is banned? Are you going to be able, do you think, to move your following over to those other platforms?

CARRIE DEMING: So I-- my bookstore's been open for eight years. And for that whole time, we've been on Facebook and Instagram. And on Instagram, I have like 3,000 followers. On Facebook, I think-- I don't know-- 2,700 or something. On TikTok, I've got 97,000. So when I do a post on any of the Meta platforms, they're rather ineffectual. Those are very much pay to play platforms, which, as a very little business, I can't really afford to do, whereas on TikTok, I just got on there with my goofiness and found a following. Some of them will come with me to the Meta Platforms, but obviously, not all of them have when you look at the following accounts.

DAVE BRIGGS: How, though, Carrie, if at all, are you concerned about the Chinese Communist government having your user data and doing with it whatever they want?

CARRIE DEMING: I mean, honestly, I have a smartphone, right? You have a smartphone. I have Facebook. All those things are already tracking every single thing I do. I can't imagine that what TikTok is doing with my data is any worse. I mean, when you look at the stats and what Amazon does with people's data, I think it's just as bad and no one seems to care. So I mean, I'm fine with that. I don't know what they would do with my data. I talk about books. I'm a very boring person.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Carrie, you certainly join the consensus that we've heard from a number of creators over the last several days and really simply the fact that many just don't care, at least up until right now, about the access that TikTok has on your data. Carrie, thanks so much.