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HomeWorldTikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faces off with US legislators in hearing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faces off with US legislators in hearing


TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is taking on United States lawmakers in his first public congressional hearing on the app’s alleged ties to the Chinese government.

The hearing is being held on Thursday as support has grown in Washington for banning the Chinese app over national security concerns. President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly called on TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell the app or lose the ability to operate in the US.

Lawmakers have claimed that US user data could easily be shared with the Chinese government, that the app could be a disinformation and propaganda platform for Beijing, and that TikTok does not adequately protect children from harm. China has countered that the US is spreading disinformation and oppressing users.

According to the company, about 150 million US residents are among TikTok’s one billion monthly global users. That is almost half of the country’s population.

“The Chinese Communist Party can use this as a tool to manipulate America as a whole,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican chairman of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Trade Committee.

“TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path of more control, more surveillance and more manipulation,” she said at the opening of the hearing. “Your platform should be banned”.

Representative Frank Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee, highlighted Washington’s bipartisan skepticism of the app and accused TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, of being indistinguishable from the Chinese government.

“Today, we plan to bring more transparency to TikTok, which is controlled by ByteDance, the parent company of the Beijing communist party,” he said.

“While TikTok videos provide a new fun way for people to express their creativity and enjoy the videos of others, the platform also threatens the health, privacy and safety of the American people,” he said.

In his opening statement, Chew described the app as “a place where people can be creative and curious.”

He said he was trying to dispel “some misconceptions” about ByteDance, which he said is “not owned or controlled by the Chinese government”.

Chew added that TikTok is headquartered in Singapore and Los Angeles and is denied influence or interference from the Chinese government. He also said that TikTok had not shared any data with Beijing.

“Our approach has never been to dismiss or downplay these concerns,” he said. “We tackled them with real action.”

On the subject of user data protection, Chew highlighted the so-called Project Texas, the reportedly $1.5 billion initiative to create a US-based storage program through contracts with Texas-based company Oracle.

Chew said the initiative builds “what amounts to a firewall that shields protected user data from unauthorized foreign access,” adding that pre-existing user data was removed from servers in the US and Singapore.

Meanwhile, to prevent the company’s algorithms from pushing harmful content, misinformation or age-inappropriate videos, he said TikTok will use “third-party validators” to review the source code and algorithms while “providing access to to researchers, helping them to study and monitor our content ecosystem”.

“We believe we are the only company that offers this level of transparency,” he said.

Chew faced a day of harsh questioning with many lawmakers citing a Chinese national intelligence law that could compel Chinese companies to provide data to the government if Beijing deems it relevant to national security.

Many lawmakers also took advantage of a Wall Street Journal report released Thursday, in which a spokesperson for the Commerce Ministry said any sale of TikTok must be approved by the Chinese government. Lawmakers called the report further evidence that ByteDance and the Chinese government were deeply intertwined.

“I don’t have any confidence in your claim that ByteDance and TikTok have no obligation to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party),” Rodgers told Chew, citing The Wall Street Journal’s report.

In another heated moment, Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican, hit back at Chew’s statement that TikTok is proactively removing “harmful comments” by playing a video showing a gun and threatening the committee’s hearing. She said it had been on the app since February 10.

“Your own community guidelines state that you take a strong stance against enabling violence on or off TikTok,” she said. “You expect us to believe you are capable of maintaining the data privacy and security of 150 million Americans if you can’t even protect the people in this room?”

The post was subsequently removed during the hearing.

“I think this is a blatant display of how vulnerable people who use TikTok are,” Cammack said.

Despite the heated line of questions at Thursday’s hearing, not all US lawmakers have supported the attack on the company.

At a press conference Wednesday night, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat, asked, “Why the hysteria and the panic and the targeting of TikTok?”

“Instead of banning TikTok, we need comprehensive legislation to ensure that social media users’ data is safe,” he said.

Dozens of TikTok creators also gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby for the platform.

Critics of the move to ban TikTok have pointed to a lack of evidence that the app has been used to harm US national security.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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