TikTok CEO Questioned by Congress
TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to respond to data security and safety concerns for American users. The Committee brought Chew in to discuss the company’s “consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms’ impact on kids, and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.” The hearing lasted more than five hours and lawmakers were reportedly antagonistic nearly the entire time. Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the committee, included in her opening statements, “Your platform should be banned.” Committee members questioned Chew on TikTok’s data security – in particular, the amount of data TikTok collects and stores, its methods for protecting minors from harmful content, and its links to the Chinese government. Chew, who has given few interviews and has kept a low profile since taking over TikTok in 2021, arrived well prepared for the lengthy interrogation. In his opening remarks he focused on TikTok’s commitment to protect minors, to protect user data, and to remain a platform for free expression without any government interference. He also highlighted the level of transparency that TikTok will provide to third party monitoring companies. Chew defended TikTok’s data security methods, speaking about a number of initiatives to store and protect American user data in the US. He advised that TikTok collects a similar amount of data as other social media platforms and that there is no evidence of the Chinese government accessing or trying to access any of its data or its algorithms. “TikTok itself is not available in mainland China,” Chew said. “We’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the U.S. today.” The outcome of this hearing is yet unknown, with no additional information on any potential upcoming legislation proposals to ban TikTok in the US completely. The hearing is just the latest in TikTok’s legal woes. The social media platform has been banned on government devices in a number of countries such as Canada, the UK, and New Zealand. TikTok currently has more than 150 million active users in the US, representing about 10% of its global community.