TikTok CEO grilled for over five hours on China, drugs and teen mental health

The leader govt of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew, became forced to guard his agency’s relationship with China, in addition to the protections for its youngest customers, at a testy congressional listening to on Thursday that came amid a bipartisan push to ban the app entirely in the US over country wide security concerns.

The listening to marked the primary ever appearance earlier than US lawmakers via a TikTok chief govt, and a unprecedented public day out for the 4o-12 months-vintage Chew, who has remained in large part out of the limelight because the social network’s popularity soars. TikTok now boasts tens of hundreds of thousands of US users, but lawmakers have lengthy held issues over China’s control over the app, which Chew again and again attempted to assuage throughout the listening to. “Let me nation this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other us of a,” Chew stated in Thursday’s testimony.Questioning got off to a forceful start with individuals of the committee hammering Chew on his connection to executives at TikTok’s determine organization, ByteDance, who lawmakers say have ties to the Chinese Communist party. The committee individuals requested how frequently Chew changed into in touch with them, and questioned whether the employer’s proposed solutions to US data security issues could offer sufficient protection in opposition to Chinese laws that require agencies to make user information accessible to the government.Chew’s claims of independence from the Chinese government had been undermined with the aid of a Wall Street Journal story posted just hours earlier than the hearing that stated China would strongly oppose any compelled sale of the enterprise. Responding for the primary time to Joe Biden’s risk of a country wide ban until ByteDance sells its stocks, the Chinese commerce ministry said any such flow might involve exporting technology from China and thus might need to be approved through the Chinese government.

Lawmakers additionally puzzled Chew, a former Goldman Sachs banker who has helmed the agency for the reason that March 2021, over the platform’s effect on mental fitness, particularly of its young customers. The Republican congressman Gus Bilirakis shared the story of Chase Nasca, a 16-year-antique boy who killed himself a year ago with the aid of stepping in front of a train. Nasca’s mother and father, who’ve sued ByteDance, claiming Chase was “focused” with unsolicited self-harm content material, appeared at the listening to and grew emotional as Bilirakis informed their son’s tale.Driving domestic issues about young customers, congresswoman Nanette Barragán asked Chew about reports that he does not permit his own kids use the app.

“At what age do you observed it’d be suitable for a younger individual to get on TikTok?” she said.

Chew showed his personal kids had been not on TikTok but stated that changed into because in Singapore, in which they stay, there is not a model of the platform for users below the age of thirteen.

Chew, who has stored a particularly low-profile at some stage in his two years as CEO, spent a whole lot of the five-hour hearing stressing TikTok’s distance from the Chinese government, kicking off his testimony with an emphasis on his own Singaporean history. Chew talked about Project Texas – an attempt to move all US data to domestic servers – and stated the agency become deleting all US consumer information that is backed as much as servers outdoor of the usa by means of the give up of the year.

Some legislators expressed skepticism that Project Texas changed into too huge an assignment and might not tackle worries about US statistics privateness quickly sufficient. “I am concerned that what you’re featuring with Project Texas just doesn’t have the technical functionality of presenting us the assurances that we need,” the California Republican Jay Obernolte, a software program engineer, stated.At one point, Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat from California, requested Chew outright if TikTok is a Chinese enterprise. Chew responded that TikTok is global in nature, not to be had in mainland China, and based in Singapore and Los Angeles.

Neal Dunn, a Republican from Florida, asked with comparable bluntness whether ByteDance has “spied on American citizens” – a query that came amid reviews the organization had accessed journalists’ facts in an attempt to discover which employees leaked statistics. Chew answered that “spying isn’t the right manner to describe it”.The hearing comes three years after TikTok was formally targeted by way of the Trump management with an government order prohibiting US agencies from doing enterprise with ByteDance. Biden revoked that order in June 2021, below the stipulation that america committee on foreign funding behavior a assessment of the corporation. When that evaluation stalled, Biden demanded TikTok promote its Chinese-owned stocks or face a ban in the US.

This bipartisan nature of the backlash became remarked upon numerous times at some stage in the hearing, with Cárdenas stating that Chew “has been one of the few humans to unite this committee”.

Chew’s testimony, some lawmakers said, changed into reminiscent of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in an April 2018 hearing to reply for his personal platform’s statistics-privacy troubles – answers many lawmakers have been unhappy with. Cárdenas stated: “We are pissed off with TikTok … and yes, you keep bringing up that there are enterprise issues that not handiest TikTok faces however others. You ring a bell in me a variety of [Mark] Zuckerberg … When he got here here, I stated he reminds me of Fred Astaire: an amazing dancer with words. And you are doing the same these days. A lot of your solutions are a bit nebulous, they’re not sure or no.”

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