TikTok CEO faces criticism about security practices, possible ties to Chinese surveillance

WASHINGTON D.C. — The fate of the popular social media app TikTok is in the hands of Congress.

Lawmakers from both parties are calling for a nationwide ban of the platform.

The app’s CEO Shou Chew defended the company and made the case for keeping the app active in the U.S. Thursday on Capitol Hill.

He said TikTok has more than 150 million American users who use the app every month. During an intense hearing, he told lawmakers the company is committed to keeping the personal data and information of Americans safe and secure.

“Only vetted personnel operating in a new company called TikTok us data security control access to this data,” said Chew. “Now additionally we have plans for this company to report to an independent American board with strong security credentials.”

But both Democrats and Republicans say they aren’t convinced. That’s because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China.

Lawmakers believe this poses national security concerns and the threat of Chinese surveillance of Americans

“When you celebrate the 150 million American users on TikTok it emphasizes the urgency for Congress to act - that is150 million Americans that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) can collect sensitive information on and control what we ultimately see hear and believe,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R - Washington State.

“I still believe the Beijing communist government will still control and have the ability to influence what you do,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, D - New Jersey.

Chew said that isn’t the case.

“I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data. They have never asked us, we have not provided it,” he said.

But many lawmakers want more commitments from TikTok. Chew told them they are taking steps.

“We do not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government,” said Chew. “It is our commitment to this committee and all our users that we will keep this free from any manipulation from any government.”

Chew believes privacy and security concerns aren’t unique to TikTok. He said other social media companies face the same challenges.

“We believe what’s needed are clear transparent rules that apply broadly to all companies. Ownership is not at the core of addressing these concerns,” said Chew.

TikTok creators aren’t the only ones pushing back against a potential federal ban. Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York is opposed as well because of freedom of expression.

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