TikTok CEO to testify before US Congress next month over data privacy

Shou Zi Chew will face legislators amid concerns over the social media app’s alleged collusion with Beijing in accessing user data

As the US legislative battle over TikTok continues to escalate, Shou Zi Chew, the chief executive of the video-sharing app, will make his first appearance before Congress to testify next month.

Chew will testify before the House energy and commerce committee on 23 March, Republican representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers confirmed in a statement on Monday, as scrutiny of the Chinese-owned app over data privacy concerns grows.

The news comes after the app was banned on government devices and school campuses in a number of states in recent months, as well as on federal devices after a ban was passed in Congress in December. Next month the House foreign affairs committee plans to hold a vote on a bill aimed at blocking the use of TikTok entirely in the US.

“ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist party to access American user data,” McMorris Rodgers said, adding that Americans deserve to know how these actions affect their privacy and data security.

TikTok has denied these claims, stating: “The Chinese Communist party has neither direct nor indirect control of ByteDance or TikTok,” according to a company spokesman. It confirmed on Monday that Chew will testify.

“We welcome 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,” the spokesman said, adding the company hopes “by sharing details of our comprehensive plans with the full committee, Congress can take a more deliberative approach to the issues at hand”.

McMorris Rodgers and other Republican lawmakers have demanded more information from TikTok regarding the app’s impact on young people, concerns about harmful content and details on potential sexual exploitation of minors on the platform.

TikTok was first targeted in earnest by the Trump administration in 2020, with a sweeping executive order prohibiting US companies from doing business with ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. In the three years since, the company has sought to assure Washington that the personal data of US citizens cannot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by China’s Communist party or anyone else under Beijing’s influence.

While Biden revoked the Trump administration ban in June 2021, the reversal was made with a stipulation that the US committee on foreign investment (CFIUS) conduct a security review of the platform and suggested a path forward to avoid a permanent ban.

That review has been ongoing as the CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks for more than two years aiming to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of US TikTok users. The White House on Friday declined to comment on whether it would support a legislative ban on TikTok or the status of the talks.

Reuters contributed to this article


Kari Paul

The GuardianTramp

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