The CEO of TikTok in a hearing in the US Congress to testify on alleged Chinese interference

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was heard in Congress today. In his hearing in the House, he tried to reassure the US about the security of the social network. “We will not be influenced by any government”, he said in response to questions from US deputies, specifying that “security is our priority. We do not sell data to brokers. We are committed to transparency”. When asked if anyone from Bytedance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, had helped him prepare for the audition, Shou Zi Chew replied: “This is a high profile audition, my cell phone is full of good luck messages” and “unsolicited advice”.

Republican MP: “Tik Tok should be banned”

When the work starts, his app is immediately attacked by American deputies. “The platform should be banned,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican lawmaker, stressing that the US deserves to know the truth about the threat TikTok poses to national security and their personal safety. “I haven’t seen any evidence” of China’s access to TikTok user data, Shou Zi Chew replied, assuring that he has never had any discussions with Chinese government officials in his capacity as CEO.

Chew: “Some US data still accessible in China”

However, Shou Zi Chew explained to US lawmakers that some American data is still accessible to company personnel in China. “Today, there’s still some data that we need to clear,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as he outlined a company plan that would have taken all American data out of reach of Chinese law. Responding to a question from a congressional representative, who asked him about the dissemination of messages on TikTok related to the use of opioids, the CEO said: “I represent TikTok here today and I can tell you that TikTok does not allow the use of drugs”. The reference is to a game, called “Benadryl Challenge” which has gone viral, in which very young people are invited to stun themselves with psychotropic and anti-allergic drugs, a phenomenon which has already caused some deaths.

Some organizations write to Congress: “Don’t ban TikTok”

More than a dozen organizations have written an open letter to Congress in which they ask not to ban the Chinese app TikTok because it “would seriously jeopardize freedom of expression in the digital sphere” and “represent a powerful and worrying precedent in times of growing censorship on the web around the world”. The organizations, including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Tully Center for Free Speech and the American Civil Liberties Union, said they understand the security concerns but believed the problems could be addressed, without resorting to a ban.