TikTok CEO will testify before US Congress to fight against app ban

High stakes congressional hearing for the Chinese app.
Sejal Sharma
U.S. Reps speak to the supporters of TikTok listen during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2023, in Washington, DC.
U.S. Reps speak to the supporters of TikTok listen during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2023, in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong/Getty Images 

TikTok’s fate hangs in the balance as its CEO Shou Chew is set to appear Thursday before a Congressional committee to testify on the Beijing-based platform’s consumer privacy and data security practices, its impact on the youth, and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

You can watch the committee hearing live here:

Will the U.S ban TikTok?

This hearing comes days after the United States threatened to put a nationwide ban on the app if the Chinese owners of Bytedance Ltd, the company that owns TikTok, don’t sell its shares.

With over 150 million U.S. users on the app, the Biden administration fears that the company might be leaking user data to the Xi Jinping-led government.

This will be Chew’s first appearance before a U.S. committee, who, in a strongly worded statement, said, “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”

Chew met with a number of committee members to identify the key pain points, namely: minor safety, data privacy, and security, real-world harms from online activities, and the risk of foreign content manipulation. Ahead of the hearing, he enlisted four commitments to the U.S. Congressional committee and the public at large:

  • We will keep safety—particularly for teenagers—a top priority for us;
  • We will firewall-protected U.S. user data from unauthorized foreign access;
  • TikTok will remain a platform for free expression and will not be manipulated by any government;
  • We will be transparent and give access to third-party independent monitors, to remain accountable for our commitments.

Chew is set to be grilled by the committee members, as was TikTok’s COO Vanessa Pappas at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last year. As per a report, the members were frustrated by her insistence that ByteDance was not a Chinese company and pressed her about TikTok’s China-based employees.

A lot is resting on how Chew deals with the committee’s questions and if he’s able to convince the members of any wrongdoings by TikTok.

TikTok under pressure

Trouble for the company is not just brewing in the U.S. but the world over. TikTok has officially been banned in the phones of federal employees of nations like the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the European Union, Canada, and Taiwan.

TikTok has been continuously refuting allegations of Chinese spying and sharing private data of users as baseless and based on ‘fundamental misconceptions.’

A recent Forbes report said that troves of personal data of Indian citizens still lie with the app and remain accessible to company employees. This is worrisome as the Chinese app was banned by the Indian government three years ago, in June 2020, due to geopolitical tensions between the neighboring countries.

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