Congressional Hearing on TikTok: What We Learned from CEO Shou Zi Chew

Shou Zi Chew Faces Congress: Key Insights on TikTok’s Future

Bruising, harming, and unrelenting. Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, was grilled by congressional investigators for four and a half hours on Thursday.

Other people can run marathons faster than that, as one legislator noted.

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After a difficult time delivering testimony, Mr. Chew will undoubtedly be feeling it. Numerous tech executives have testified before Congress, and they frequently face opposition.

The relentless, merciless line of questioning during this session, however, was outstanding.

There was no letup from either the Republicans or the Democrats. Afterward, a TikTok spokeswoman claimed that the politicians were “grandstanding.” Certainly, there is some truth to that. But despite the somewhat annoyingly verbose questioning, we did pick up a few new skills.

Lawmakers opposed TikTok as a group.

Republicans and Democrats both criticized TikTok, and there was a glaring lack of trust and skepticism on all sides.

Rep. Buddy Carter of the Republican Party welcomed everyone to the committee, which was the most partisan in the House.

Dan Crenshaw, a Republican, thanked Mr. Chew for bringing Republicans and Democrats together.

It was particularly interesting to observe how many politicians, who rarely agree on anything, firmly agreed that TikTok posed a security risk.

Following the incident, TikTok expressed dissatisfaction about the lack of attention given to the platform’s data security procedures.

The livelihoods of the five million businesses on TikTok or the [US Constitution] First Amendment ramifications of banning a site adored by 150 million Americans were also not raised today by committee members, according to a TikTok spokesman.

Chinese ByteDance developers have access to some US data

Mr. Chew kept mentioning “Project Texas,” a plan that would have all data stored in the US under the supervision of the American company Oracle.

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Project Texas isn’t yet fully functioning, though. According to Mr. Chew, engineers at ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, do currently have access to data.

Chinese engineers have access to data, so we rely on global interoperability, he said.

Politicians repeatedly referenced this admission. They argued that if Chinese engineers can access data, it is difficult to imagine how the Chinese government couldn’t do the same.

The notion that China does not request corporations to share data or intelligence located in other countries was reiterated by the country’s foreign ministry on Friday.

Chew owns ByteDance stock.

The attempt by Mr. Chew to separate TikTok from ByteDance was maybe his least effective defense.

By any standard, TikTok is owned by a Chinese firm. The former Chief Financial Officer of ByteDance was Mr. Chew.

When first questioned if he owned shares in ByteDance, Mr. Chew declined to answer. He later admitted it after being prodded by MPs, but he made an effort to downplay the relationship.

The US government is rumored to be considering forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok, and the Chinese government has stated that it would resist such a scheme.

The kids of Chew don’t utilize TikTok

Democratic representative Nanette Barragán quizzed Mr. Chew about whether or not his own kids used TikTok at one point in the session.

He claimed that since they reside in Singapore, they didn’t. The app is not available in that nation for users under the age of 13.

Mr. Chew did say that the kid-friendly version of the app is accessible in the US and that he would permit his kids to use it there.

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Why not mention Cambridge Analytica?

Mr. Chew generally avoided confrontation. He didn’t frequently return the fight to Congressmen. Yet there were a few instances when he did push back, and he did it successfully.

When asked about how TikTok uses user data, he replied: “With all due respect, American businesses have a poor history with data… Just take a look at Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.”

It was a biting remark, but it had a valid point.

When news of the collection of Facebook users’ personal data by the British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica and other third-party apps broke in 2018, it sparked outrage.

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