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TikTok congressional listening to: CEO Shou Zi Chew grilled by US lawmakers

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CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony earlier than Congress did little to assuage US worries over TikTok’s China-based guardian firm ByteDance.

By Reuters: United States lawmakers on Thursday battered TikTok’s chief government about potential Chinese affect over the platform and stated its quick movies had been damaging youngsters’s psychological well being, reflecting bipartisan issues over the app’s energy over Americans.

CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony earlier than Congress did little to assuage US worries over TikTok’s China-based guardian firm ByteDance and added contemporary momentum to lawmakers’ calls to ban the platform nationwide.

Over 5 hours of testimony, Chew repeatedly denied the app shares knowledge or has connections with the Chinese Communist Party and argued the platform was doing all the pieces to make sure security for its 150 million American customers. Chew stated TikTok for greater than two years has been “building what amounts to a firewall to seal off protected US user data from unauthorised foreign access.

The bottom line is this: American data stored on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel,” Chew stated.

But not a single lawmaker supplied help for TikTok or sympathy for Chew’s reassurances, as they deemed his solutions on China evasive and aired issues over the facility the app holds over US youngsters.

Others accuse TikTok of selling content material that encourages consuming problems amongst youngsters, unlawful drug gross sales and sexual exploitation.

“TikTok could be designed to minimize the harm to kids, but a decision was made to aggressively addict kids in the name of profits,” stated Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat, on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee listening to.

Chew responded to many pointed questions by saying the problems had been “complex” and never distinctive to TikTok.

The firm says it has spent greater than $1.5 billion on knowledge safety efforts below the identify “Project Texas” which at the moment has practically 1,500 full-time workers and is contracted with Oracle Corp to retailer TikTok’s U.S. consumer knowledge.
But critics weren’t appeased as the corporate didn’t announce any new efforts to safeguard privateness.

Chew, who started his testimony by referring to his Singaporean roots, stated: “We do not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government.”

He added: “It is our commitment to this committee and all our users that we will keep (TikTok) free from any manipulation by any government.” He stated the app strictly screens content material that would hurt youngsters.

It will not be clear how lawmakers will proceed after the listening to or how rapidly they may transfer to move laws to strengthen the Biden administration’s authorized powers to ban TikTok.


Some 20 US senators – 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans – have backed bipartisan laws giving President Joe Biden’s administration a path to ban TikTok, and the app’s destiny has added a brand new component to tensions between Washington and Beijing.

TikTok final week stated the Biden administration demanded its Chinese house owners divest their stakes or face a possible ban.

When requested a couple of potential divestiture, Chew stated the difficulty was “not about the ownership” and argued U.S. issues could possibly be addressed by shifting knowledge to its US storage facilities.

China’s commerce ministry stated that forcing TikTok’s sale “will seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including China, to invest in the United States,” and that China would oppose any sale. Some lawmakers cited China’s feedback to reject TikTok’s competition that it’s separate from the Chinese authorities.

At Thursday’s House listening to, Representative Neal Dunn requested Chew if ByteDance has spied on Americans at Beijing’s request. Chew answered, “No.”

Republican Dunn then requested about US media reviews {that a} China-based staff at ByteDance deliberate to make use of TikTok to watch the situation of particular US residents, and repeated his query about whether or not ByteDance was spying.

“I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it,” Chew stated. He went on to explain the reviews as involving an “internal investigation,” however was minimize off by Dunn, who known as TikTok’s widespread use “a cancer.”

Shares of US social media corporations that compete with TikTok for promoting rose on Thursday, with Facebook guardian Meta Platforms Inc up 1.8% and Snap Inc up 2.8%.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives on Twitter he would characterize Chew’s testimony “as a ‘mini disaster’ for this key moment for TikTok. TikTok is now the poster child of the US/China tensions and lawmakers have a lot of q’s with not enough concrete answers.”


Democratic lawmaker Tony Cardenas stated Chew was a “good dancer with words” and accused him of avoiding robust questions on proof that the app has harmed youngsters’s psychological well being.

Chew stated the corporate was investing in content material moderation and synthetic intelligence to restrict such content material.

Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat, stated TikTok’s efforts to forestall the unfold of misinformation on the platform weren’t working.

“You gave me only generalized statements that you’re investing, that you’re concerned, that you’re doing work. That’s not enough for me. That’s not enough for the parents of America,” DeGette stated.

Representative Gus Bilirakis confirmed the committee a set of quick TikTok movies that appeared to glorify self-harm and suicide, or outright inform viewers to kill themselves.

“Your technology is literally leading to death,” Bilirakis stated. “We must save our children from big tech companies like yours, who continue to abuse and manipulate them for your own gain.”

Chew informed Bilirakis that TikTok takes the difficulty of suicide and self-harm “very, very seriously.”

Published On:

Mar 24, 2023