Former Disney Comms Chief Zenia Mucha Advising TikTok Amid Congressional Calls To Ban The Hugely Popular App Over Chinese Spying Concerns

Disney’s former head of communications Zenia Mucha is advising TikTok as the beleagued company fights calls to shut it down in the U.S. on security concerns, Deadline has confirmed. It’s already banned across the Federal government with President Biden recently ramping up demands that the global app’s Chinese parent sell the U.S. business to a company Stateside, or see it vanish.

Mucha’s advisory role to the besieged social media platform falls under her ZM Stategies banner. Having moved back East after officially leaving Disney in late 2021, the former righthand lady to past and present CEO Bob Iger formed the company in August last year.  

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No stranger to the sharp elbows of the political world, Mucha was a hardball advocate for GOP New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato and later Governor George Pataki before joining Iger and the House of Mouse in 2001. Whether those partisan skills will bear results against an increasingly bipartisan wave to kneecap or ban TikTik remains to be seen. 

In fact, Mucha’s Disney connection and the punching bag the company has become in the Republican culture war, and over its own business with China, could be an obstacle for TikTok, the chatter in some GOP quarters is saying, we hear.

The WSJ first reported Mucha’s gig and said that David Plouffe and Jim Messina, veterans of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, are also serving as TikTok advisors. The company sure needs a strong team, as witnessed by the brutal grilling of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. Members were vocal about being spooked and angered at the Chinese government’s perceived ability to access U.S. user data, and influence TikTok users with propaganda on the app. They also railed generally about the evils of social media.

The executive tried, apparently in vain, to convince lawmakers that a workaround called Project Texas, currently being set up but not yet ready, would address all concerns of how the platform handles U.S. data. Namely, it would keep all information within the U.S. on servers here, and under the oversight of a third party. Nor could he reassure them on the status of data being collected right now. TikTok is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance.

The WSJ said the three advisors had helped to coach Chew before the hearing.

Mucha didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by Deadline today on her connection with TikTok.

It hasn’t proven all that easy to quash TikTok. The Trump administration also tried to force a sale of TikTok, then to ban it, but lost a few rounds in court before letting the matter drop. Two separate judges ruled in the fall of 2020 against preliminary injunctions that would have made the app unavailable in app stores for new downloads.

Earlier in his term, Trump had issued an executive order requiring ByteDance to sell the U.S. piece of the platform to American owners. Microsoft made an offer but was turned down. The administration seemed to have approved a bid led by Oracle and Walmart, but that never happened.

TikTok has said that “the best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.”

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