Democratic and Republican members of Congress have voiced concerns over reports that members of the Chinese Communist Party have access to American user data through TikTok, on which American young people spend more time than any other social media platform. Chew, who is scheduled to testify before lawmakers on Thursday morning, touted the platform’s enormous reach in the United States as he called for support from users.
“I’m super excited to announce that more than 150 million Americans are on TikTok,” Chew commented in a video message filmed in Washington, D.C., and posted to the platform. “This includes more than 5 million businesses that use TikTok to reach customers.”
He also made reference to the 7,000 individuals employed by TikTok in the United States as he noted that the firm faces a “pivotal moment.” The vertical video platform is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese technology firm headquartered in Beijing.
“Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok,” he continued. “Now this could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you. I’ll be testifying before Congress later this week to share all that we’re doing to protect Americans using the app and deliver on our mission to inspire creativity and to bring joy.”
TikTok vowed in one recent proposal to spend $1.5 billion protecting user data and ensuring that Chinese officials could not access the information. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a board composed of nine cabinet-level officials who evaluate the national security implications of international investments, nevertheless rejected the proposal and reportedly ordered ByteDance to sell the platform last week.
Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are expected to question Chew regarding the platform’s privacy and security practices, as well as relations with the Chinese Communist Party and impacts on the health of young users.
“Americans deserve to know the extent to which their privacy is jeopardized and their data is manipulated by ByteDance-owned TikTok’s relationship with China,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said in a statement last week. “What’s worse, we know Big Tech companies, like TikTok, use harmful algorithms to exploit children for profit and expose them to dangerous content online. We need to know what actions the company is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms.”
Beyond the proposals to force the divestiture of TikTok to an American company, other lawmakers have contended that the platform should be entirely prohibited. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced legislation banning TikTok and other platforms deemed to be under the influence of adversarial nations.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) publicized accusations earlier this month from a former TikTok employee who claimed that workers at the firm, including members of the Chinese Communist Party who are on the company’s payroll, can easily switch between viewing Chinese and American data. The platform allegedly has software backdoors inserted by employees in China.