On March 23, TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, testified at a congressional hearing regarding potential data collecting and Chinese spying through the popular social media app.
United States lawmakers are worried this could threaten national security and user privacy. There is also fear that information could be used to promote Chinese propaganda and misinformation.
TikTok just reached 150 million U.S. users with the majority being teens and young adults who are attracted to the app’s addictive algorithm and simple interface that contains short videos for entertainment that pertain to the user’s interests.
During the hearing, U.S. lawmakers stressed their concerns about the Chinese government getting a hold of American data and believe this app could be a serious threat to America’s national security and user privacy.
Chew testified in an attempt to deter lawmakers from pursuing the ban on the app, assuring them that TikTok prioritizes safety for young users and will continue to protect user data from unauthorized foreign access.
“I am making the following commitments to you and all our users. Number one, we will keep safety, particularly for teenagers, as a top priority for us. Number two, we will firewall protect the U.S. data from unwanted foreign access. Number three, TikTok will remain a place for free expression and will not be manipulated by any government. And lastly, we will be transparent and give access to third-party independent monitors to remain accountable for our commitments,” said Chew during his testimony at the congressional hearing.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the U.S. public knows relatively little about Chew compared to Silicon Valley social media giants such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. However, Chew is well respected within the American and Chinese technology communities, and was considered a good fit for TikTok because of his background in investment banking and his time at Facebook and DST Global.
“I don’t think TikTok should be banned, and I don’t see how they could be taking any valuable or important information about me or any other users,” said Sacred Heart University media student and active TikTok user, Megan Agrillo. “My TikTok feed is simply videos that pertain to my interests and I don’t believe it’s a harmful app to use.”
The U.S. government is also concerned with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, for possible spying on U.S. citizens. Lawmakers are pushing to force ByteDance to give up its ownership stake, according to NPR.org.
Chew defended these claims by stating ByteDance is not an agent for China or any other country, and TikTok plans to store all U.S. user data on servers maintained and owned by software giant Oracle, according to AP News and Chew’s testimony.
“ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country. However, you don’t simply have to take my word on that. Rather, 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,” said Chew in his testimony.
Chew released a video on TikTok, thanking users for their support and assuring users of their privacy and safety. He has gained over 2 million followers since.
“It is our responsibility to protect over 150 million Americans who love and use our platform,” said Chew in his TikTok video. “We are proud of the groundbreaking work we are doing to be the most trusted platform in the world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.