TikTok CEO Pushes Back Against Bipartisan National Security Concerns

(Screenshot, YouTube, House Committee on Energy and Commerce)

James Lynch Contributor
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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew pushed back against the bipartisan concerns surrounding TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government in Congressional testimony on Thursday.

Chew is testifying in front of the House Energy & Commerce Committee about TikTok, as Congress and the Biden administration consider banning the app or forcing its China-based parent company ByteDance to sell it. (RELATED: TikTok’s Security Protocols Won’t Prevent China From Spying On American Users, Analysts Warn)

“I am well aware that the fact that ByteDance has Chinese founders has prompted concerns that our platform could be used as or become a tool of China or the Chinese Communist Party. There have even been calls to ban us or require divestment,” Chew said.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country. However, for the reasons discussed above, you don’t simply have to take my word on that. Rather, our approach has been to work transparently and cooperatively with the U.S. government and Oracle to design robust solutions to address concerns about TikTok’s heritage.”

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) within the Treasury Department demanded ByteDance sell TikTok in March after concluding a review of the app’s national security risk. An unnamed Biden official reiterated CFIUS’s demand in a statement to Axios on Thursday.

As part of its negotiations with CFIUS, TikTok proposed its “Project Texas” plan to protect U.S. user data from being accessed by China-based ByteDance employees. The $1.5 billion project would create a U.S. data subsidiary controlled by Oracle Corp. and a board of national security experts.

“Project Texas puts the concepts of transparency and accountability into action by addressing national security concerns head-on with concrete, measurable solutions. Project Texas is designed to introduce layers of transparency and vetting that are commonly used for defense contractors but are unheard of for consumer platforms,” Chew said.

ByteDance is being investigated by the FBI and Department of Justice for allegedly conducting surveillance on American users. The ByteDance employees who allegedly used TikTok to monitor U.S. users were fired after ByteDance conducted an internal review, per the New York Times.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois proposed bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado have also proposed a ban.

TikTok’s most prominent defender on Capitol Hill is Democratic New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who called the push to ban it “xenophobic” and hosted TikTok influencers on Wednesday to advocate against a ban.