TikTok CEO faces questioning from US lawmakers over security concerns related to the app

Rebbeca Ren

posted on March 24, 2023 6:47 am

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before US lawmakers on Thursday about data security and content moderation on the short-form video platform, among other issues.

At the hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, representatives from both parties voiced worries about TikTok's ties to China, but offered no evidence of the app harming US national security interests, according to the Washington Post.

Despite Chew's consistent promises that the viral app complies with US laws and regulations and is committed to protecting user privacy, those representatives remain distrustful and have expressed concern about TikTok's data collection practices and its potential to spread misinformation or hate speech.

Ahead of the hearing, TikTok has launched a public relations blitz. In a one minute-long video posted on TikTok's official account on Tuesday, Chew announced that the app has reached 150 million users in the US and emphasized the opportunities it provides for small and medium-sized businesses. He also urged users to stand up for the app. 

Chew further revealed that TikTok has expanded its workforce in the US to 7,000 employees, a big leap from the 1,400 US headcount in 2020.

It also brought creators to Washington to share how the app has helped them make connections and a living online.

As US-China relations have become tense in various fields, especially technology, TikTok, owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, has become one of the battlegrounds between the two countries.

A week prior to the hearing, the Biden administration asked TikTok's parent company ByteDance to sell the app due to national security concerns, or face a nationwide ban in the US.

In response to the possible ban, the Chinese government said on Thursday that if ByteDance is forced to sell stake in TikTok, it will decide whether or not to grant its approval solely based on Chinese laws and regulations.

"Selling the stake or splitting TikTok from the Chinese parent company involves technology export and must follow Chinese laws and regulations to proceed for administrative approval. The Chinese government will make a decision in accordance with the law," Shu Jue­ting, spokeswoman of the Ministry of Commerce said.

TikTok is facing increasing pressure from the US and its allies. The US, Canada and the EU have banned the use of TikTok on government-issued devices.

The hearing did, however, give TikTok a chance to showcase the company's efforts to protect user data and address concerns from US lawmakers, though it's unclear whether it will have any impact on the government's decision on whether to ban the app.

Cover image: Screenshot of the Washington Post's livestreaming of the hearing