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TikTok CEO to address the concerns of US Congressional committee at hearing next month

By | Published on Tuesday 31 January 2023


The CEO of TikTok will appear before the Energy And Commerce Committee in the US House Of Representatives in March as political concerns about the Chinese-owned video-sharing app continue unabated.

A statement from the committee says that TikTok boss Shou Zi Chew will be questioned about his company’s “consumer privacy and data security practices, the platform’s impact on kids, and their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party”.

The alleged influence of the Chinese government over the operations of TikTok – via its China-based parent company Bytedance – is arguably the biggest concern about the video-sharing app within political circles in the US and elsewhere.

It was based on that concern that former US President Donald Trump sought to ban the use of TikTok within the US back in 2019, of course. The ban never went into effect, first because of legal challenges, and then because current President Joe Biden reversed the measure. However, the concerns remain, and on both sides of the political spectrum.

New proposals for banning the use of TikTok in America were proposed in Congress last year, and those proposals had support from both Republicans and Democrats in both the Senate and the House.

The statement from the Congressional committee adds: “Big tech has increasingly become a destructive force in American society. The Energy And Commerce Committee has been at the forefront of asking big tech CEOs – from Facebook to Twitter to Google – to answer for their companies’ actions. These efforts will continue with TikTok”.

“ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data”, it continues. “Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms”.

“We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok”, it concludes. “It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold big tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people”.

TikTok continues to deny that the Chinese government has access to its global user data and user-base. And, responding to the new comments from the Congressional committee, TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter added that, under a proposal the firm has devised with US security agencies, “that kind of data sharing – or any other form of foreign influence over the TikTok platform in the United States – would not be possible”.

Oberwetter also told reporters that TikTok welcomes “the opportunity to set the record straight about TikTok, ByteDance, and the commitments we are making to address concerns about US national security before the House Committee on Energy And Commerce. We hope that by sharing details of our comprehensive plans with the full committee, Congress can take a more deliberative approach to the issues at hand”.

Despite heading up the phenomenon that is TikTok, Shou Zi Chew has a relatively low public profile, with the firm’s Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas having more commonly spoken on behalf of the company in public in the past.

She also stood in as interim CEO before Chew’s appointment after the sudden departure of previous boss, the former Disney exec Kevin Mayer. He stood down after just three months in the role as the then Trump administration was starting its crackdown so that, for a short time, it looked like the global TikTok company might be split up.

That said, Chew has been more proactively seeking to allay the concerns of TikTok’s critics in the global political community of late, recently meeting with officials in the European Union. It remains to be seen if he can do any of that in Washington next month.