TikTok CEO to tell Congress app ‘never shared’ US user data with China
TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew is expected to staunchly deny allegations by the US Congress on Thursday that the hugely popular video-sharing app has — or ever will — share data with the Chinese government.
The pledge will be part of Mr Chew’s testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in which he intends to oppose calls, including from the White House, for the app to be banned in the US as long as it remains a Chinese company.
Both Republicans and Democrats are expected to give Mr Chew, who is from Singapore, a rough grilling over what they claim are national security concerns.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Mr Chew is expected to say, according to prepared remarks made available by the House committee.
“TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one were ever made.”
There are currently several pieces of legislation, including one bill backed by the White House, already paving the way for a ban of the app if TikTok fails to split from its parent company, Chinese-owned ByteDance.
Mr Chew’s remarks are expected to include a long set of assurances for US government officials as well as the promotion of the company’s elaborate Project Texas plan.
According to that plan, the handling of US data will be ring-fenced into a separate division of the company, co-controlled with Oracle and under different management.
The Singaporean chief executive is then expected to tell Congress that TikTok has already spent $1.5 billion on Project Texas and hired 1,500 US-based staff to make it a reality.
“It is a comprehensive package of measures with layers of independent oversight to protect against back doors into TikTok that could be used to manipulate the platform or access US user protected data,” he will say.
He will also argue US user traffic is running exclusively on Oracle’s servers and that the algorithm driving TikTok’s signature “For You” recommendations is processed in the US.
Mr Chew will also tout TikTok’s content moderation division that is staffed by “more than 40,000 people” around the world.
TikTok “is not the platform of choice for individuals seeking to engage in harmful conduct”, Mr Chew will say, in a tacit criticism of rivals such as Google-owned YouTube and Meta-owned Facebook that have also struggled with harmful or illegal content.
He is also expected to point to the site’s new default of imposing a 60 minutes-a-day time limit for those under age 18.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report