TikTok CEO to testify before Congress to address national security concerns


TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as he looks to assure lawmakers that the app does not pose a national security threat. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as he looks to assure lawmakers that the app does not pose a national security threat. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) — TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will look to reassure U.S. lawmakers that the app presents no national security concerns in testimony before Congress Thursday.

Chew will tell the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that the company is not operating under the influence or authority of the Chinese government during testimony Thursday that serves to determine whether the wildly popular social media platform should be banned in the U.S.

“I understand that there are concerns stemming from the inaccurate belief that TikTok’s corporate structure makes it beholden to the Chinese government or that it shares information about U.S. users with the Chinese government,” Chew will say, according to a 10-page prepared statement released ahead of his testimony.

“This is emphatically untrue.”

Chew plans to highlight how millions of Americans have incorporated the platform into their daily lives to tell unique stories and to promote commerce among diverse segments of the population.

The app has also become a major source of revenue for everyday people who launched small businesses with the help of the platform during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chew will tell lawmakers as they consider legislation to severely restrict or ban the platform.

“TikTok has empowered millions of Americans to express their voices in their own authentic way and has provided a global stage for their creativity in a way that cannot be replicated on any other platform or in any other medium,” Chew states.

His testimony comes days after TikTok unveiled the “most comprehensive” update to its community guidelines in an effort to combat misinformation and protect the integrity of elections as Chinese scrutiny on Capitol Hill reached a groundswell.

Last week, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bill to block companies who partner and advertise with TikTok from receiving federal funds after Rubio introduced the bill to ban the app from government devices in December.

Rubio emphasized that national security was his main concern.

“My job here is to do what’s in the best of the country,” he said. “And on national security, if the politics are good on it, great, and if the politics are not, I’ll sleep well at night knowing I did what I could to protect the country.”

American users of TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, have surged over the past two years, with the average user spending about 90 minutes per day scrolling through the content feed.

The video-based app, which has about 150 million users across the nation, has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks as lawmakers have ramped up accusations that China may be using the technology to spread propaganda and surveil Americans through their personal data despite no direct evidence to support these claims.

Earlier this month, the White House informed federal agencies that they had 30 days to remove TikTok from all government devices amid mounting fears that U.S. secrets may end up in the hands of Chinese Communist Party courtesy of the platform.

The White House has also threatened to ban TikTok from the entire country unless its Chinese owners were willing to fork over total stake in the company.

President Joe Biden was also said to be backing bipartisan legislation put forth by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., which would seek to ban similar technologies that are produced by several global adversaries.

TikTok claims user data is stored outside of China and that the company has taken steps to prevent that data from being procured by foreign entities.

Chew, who is in charge of TikTok’s business operations and strategic direction worldwide, is from Singapore.

He has traveled to Washington in recent months to meet with lawmakers as grumbling on Capitol Hill intensified in recent weeks, with several hearings to examine the increasing national security threat posed by China.

Chew said he was fully cognizant of the growing sensitivity in Washington toward Chinese spying concerns.

“I am well aware that the fact that ByteDance has Chinese founders has prompted concerns that our platform could be used as or become a tool of China or the Chinese Communist Party,” Chew will testify. “There have even been calls to ban us or require divestment.

“I steadfastly believe that all concerns that have been raised have solutions. Bans are only appropriate when there are no alternatives. But we do have an alternative,” Chew pleads. “We do not believe that a ban that hurts American small businesses, damages the country’s economy, silences the voices of over 150 million Americans, and reduces competition in an increasingly concentrated market is the solution to a solvable problem.”

Chew also plans to tout actions TikTok has taken on its own to mitigate the escalating security concerns, including a $1.5 billion program to protect user data. The company has also launched a subsidiary in the U.S. called TikTok U.S. Data Security Inc., which employs a staff of 1,500 to protect the company’s sensitive data

Chew also plans to discuss making better efforts to protect teenagers — the primary users of the app — from harmful content and from gaining access to illegal drugs.

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