With a possible U.S. ban being discussed, TikTok—the video-sharing app—hopes to avoid this while CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies in front of Congress to address national security concerns.
Following much back-and-forth on the future of TikTok in the United States, CEO Shou Zi Chew has been making the rounds to give the company’s perspective on the national security concerns being discussed. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, which has opened discussions around interference from the Chinese government, which some fear could lead to the spread of propaganda to a U.S. audience.
TikTok has already been banned on all federally-owned devices, as well as across many state governments. Still, Congress is contemplating fully banning the app for everyone in the U.S. if the company doesn’t move on from its Chinese backing, much like the process made with the formerly Chinese-owned dating app Grindr.
“Your platform should be banned.” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opened with during Thursday’s hearing, “I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome. We aren’t buying it. In fact, when you celebrate the 150 million American users on TikTok, it emphasizes the urgency for Congress to act. That is 150 million Americans that the [Chinese Communist Party] can collect sensitive information on.”
“TikTok itself is not available in mainland China, we’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the U.S. today,” TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew rebutted, “Still, we have heard important concerns about the potential for unwanted foreign access to U.S. data and potential manipulation of the TikTok U.S. ecosystem. Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action.”
“We are committed to be very transparent with our users about what we collect,” Chew said. “I don’t believe what we collect is more than most players in the industry.” Shou Zi Chew argued that all the other major tech companies in the industry also collect data and information from users, so simply having Chinese roots isn’t enough for the company to be blacklisted, calling for reform and setting rules for everyone, not just TikTok.
“While I appreciate Mr. Chew’s willingness to answer questions before Congress, TikTok’s lack of transparency, repeated obfuscations, and misstatements of fact have severely undermined the credibility of any statements by TikTok employees, including Mr. Chew,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement Wednesday prior to the hearings.
While both the Trump and Biden administrations have called for a ban on the app, the video-sharing app looks to come to a middle ground to avoid such drastic action, while a sale of the company is still being called for at this time.