TikTok Scrutiny: CEO Will Tell Lawmakers App Is Safe For Minors And Ban Would ‘Hurt’ U.S. Economy
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will highlight the app’s safety measures to protect minors and efforts to firewall U.S. user data from foreign access as he speaks to U.S. lawmakers Thursday, according to the text of his prepared remarks released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose members are expected to grill Chew as the app faces bans from governments globally because of security concerns.
TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew is interviewed at offices the company uses on Tuesday in Washington, DC. THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES
Chew will tell Congress more than 150 million people in the U.S. use TikTok, and highlight the exposure the app has brought to “American musicians, artists, chefs, and many more.”
He will outline various efforts on TikTok’s part to protect minor users—especially teenagers—saying TikTok has “been a leader on these issues” and “other platforms have adopted some of the protections that we have pioneered.”
Chew will also highlight TikTok’s plan to safeguard Americans users’ data and national security interests as part of the company’s Project Texas initiative in partnership with Oracle.
The speech notes that the company has already spent over $1.5 billion to build a firewall between U.S. user data and its Chinese parent company ByteDance, which includes storing American user data on Oracle’s servers, while also allowing the American tech company and independent observers to audit its data handling, algorithm and content moderation practices.
Chew’s testimony will warn against banning the app, claiming that such a move would hurt small businesses, damage the U.S. economy, reduce competition in the social media space, and silence “the voices of over 150 million Americans.”
The speech will also address what Chew says are “misconceptions” about TikTok, and point out that TikTok has never shared or even received a request to share U.S. user data with the Chinese government, and the company would not “honor such a request if one were ever made.”
On the issue of ByteDance’s links to the Chinese government, Chew’s speech notes: “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country…you don’t simply have to take my word on that…our approach has been to work transparently and cooperatively with the U.S. government and Oracle to design robust solutions to address concerns about TikTok’s heritage.” Chew directly appealed to TikTok’s U.S. users in a video Tuesday, urging them to leave comments about “what you want your elected representatives to know about what you love about TikTok.”
Biden administration officials and lawmakers in Congress are increasingly concerned about TikTok’s handling of personal user data and its parent ByteDance’s potential links to the Chinese government. Last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned security concerns around TikTok include the possibility that the “Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users…which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices.” Last week, Forbes reported that the FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating ByteDance’s efforts to access U.S. journalists’ location information and other private data from the TikTok app. The Biden administration has also reportedly rejected TikTok’s Project Texas proposals and has threatened to ban the app unless ByteDance agrees to divest TikTok’s U.S. business.
In a rare occurrence, TikTok gained a supporter in Congress on Tuesday in the form of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) who defended the platform in an interview with NBC News. Bowman noted that the app is a platform for creators to “share their ideas, their inspirations, their thoughts, their voices with the rest of the country and the rest of the world,” and asked “Why do we need to ban a platform that 150 million Americans now use?” Bowman dismissed concerns about TikTok’s Chinese ownership, calling it “political fear mongering” and “xenophobia around China.”
25%. That according to Chew’s speech is the percentage of TikTok’s total views that videos from U.S. users generate, despite Americans making up only 10% of the platform’s total global user base.
TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and government officials, who have moved to limit the app’s use on official devices. Last month, the White House set a 30-day deadline for federal agencies to ensure the removal and blocking of TikTok from all government-issued devices, including phones and computers. Last week a group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced a bill that would empower the president to enact a nationwide ban on apps like TikTok if they pose a national security threat. Other Western governments have also cracked down on TikTok over national security concerns, with the Canadian government and the European Union banning government staffers from using the app.
Full Text Of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Prepared Remarks Before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce (U.S. House of Representatives)
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Mar 22, 2023,04:09am EDT