TikTok CEO to Testify Before Congress as Calls to Ban Chinese-linked Video App Increase

TikTok CEO Shou Chew will make the case that users' information is safe on TikTok

Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) holding a press conference to stop a ban on TikTok outside the US Capitol on March 22, 2023 in Washington, DC


(Candice Cole)

Today, the CEO of the popular social media and content creation app, TikTok, will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the platform’s handling of user information, its impact on children, and TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese government, as calls for a complete ban on the app continue to grow among lawmakers.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company, ByteDance, has come under increased scrutiny as a possible threat to national security over concerns the app is spying on users and harvesting their personal information for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Those claims, which are currently being investigated by the Dept. of Justice, have prompted the app to be banned on federal and some state government devices.

During his first-ever congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Chew will make the case that TikTok is committed to prioritizing safety, protecting user data, and keeping itself accountable. According to his testimony, Chew will attempt to put concerned lawmakers at ease by focusing on its Project Texas, which he calls the “centerpiece” of TikTok’s work and “an unprecedented initiative dedicated to safeguarding both U.S. user data and U.S. national security interests.”

“To ensure that the data of all Americans is stored in America and hosted by an American headquartered company, we have contracted with Oracle, an industry leader in cloud-based services, to store TikTok’s U.S. user data,” says Chew’s testimony.

The app, which has over 150 million users in the U.S., is beloved by content creators and business owners for elevating their brands and building their livelihoods.

During a press conference Wednesday, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) said that Republicans are using TikTok as a scapegoat to create fear around China and that banning TikTok plays into heightened xenophobia and racism against China. Instead of a ban, Bowman is calling for legislation that would make TikTok safer and ensure that users’ information is secure.

However, Bowman says that if Thursday’s hearing presents evidence of actual espionage by the Chinese through TikTok, his stance might change.

“If we get to a point where we find out that the Chinese are spying on us and like taking our stuff, I'll stand up and say I was wrong. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have said what I said. Whatever. That's one thing,” said Bowman to reporters including TYT following his press conference. “The other thing is, what about the other American social media platforms? They haven't done anything wrong? They're not taking our data? They're not selling it?”

ByteDance reached an agreement with Oracle in 2020 that allowed TikTok’s parent company to maintain control of the app’s algorithm while storing user data in the U.S., after then-Pres. Trump ordered the company to divest from TikTok and sell off its assets to an American company – a move that ByteDance executives said would need approval from Chinese authorities, according to the committee’s briefing memo.

TYT Washington Correspondent Candice Cole was previously a correspondent and senior White House producer for the Black News Channel and has worked at a number of local news outlets. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.