Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, has issued a new promise that ByteDance, which is the company set up in China that owned the titanic social media platform, is not just a weapon or smokescreen for the communist nation’s government.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” stated Chew as part of seemingly prepared remarks that he issued to the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Both Republican and Democrat members of Congress have flagged a number of concerns about allegations that officials within the Chinese Communist Party have the power to directly access the user data of American citizens via the use of TikTok, a platform on which young Americans spend more of their time and any other social media platform. These statements from Chew seem to be part of a larger effort to stop American lawmakers from either forcing the sale of TikTok to a firm situated within the United States or instead a full-scale ban of the app and platform.
“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,” stated Chew. “Divestment doesn’t address the fundamental concerns that I have heard, as a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access. This is not an issue of nationality.”
TikTok committed as part of a recent proposal labeled Project Texas to spend $1.5 billion to ensure the protection of American user data and ensure that officials in China will not have access to user data. Chew went on to note that TikTok has also contracted with American cloud services company Oracle to handle and store the user data domestically. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a group built out of nin cabinet-level officials tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the national security implications of international investments, elected to reject this recent proposal.
Chew has bragged on numerous occasions about the extreme popularity found by TikTok within the United States as he attempts to convince lawmakers to not take action against the platform. “We do not believe that a ban that hurts American small businesses, damages the country’s economy, silences the voices of over 150 million Americans, and reduces competition in an increasingly concentrated market is the solution to a solvable problem,” he commented.
Already, President Joe Biden and several state-level officials have elected to ban TikTok from any government-owned devices on grounds of data security and surveillance concerns after a number of reports indicated that ByteDance staffers in China made use of the platform to track the exact locations of American users. Chew made the claim that TikTok has historically made “mistakes” regarding privacy and is “making changes to address” those issues.