WASHINGTON – TikTok is not beholden to the Chinese government and will not share information about American users with it, the social media apps chief executive is expected to promise the United States Congress at a crucial hearing on Thursday.
Mr Chew Shou Zi will make the case to lawmakers that banning the app will hurt small American businesses and damage the countrys economy, as well as impinge on the freedom of speech of its more than 150 million US users, according to his prepared testimony released on Tuesday night ahead of the hearing in Washington.
Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country, said Mr Chew, a Singaporean, who will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.
ByteDance is the Chinese company that owns TikTok.
Our approach has been to work transparently and cooperatively with the US government to design robust solutions to address concerns about TikToks heritage, added Mr Chew.
TikTok is facing fierce opposition from Republican and Democratic lawmakers concerned about data privacy and national security, particularly whether parent company ByteDance would be compelled to hand over user data to the Chinese government.
Calls for the app to be banned have mounted, with Congress advancing legislation that would give President Joe Biden the power to restrict or ban the app in America.
The Biden administration is pushing for ByteDance to sell the app or be banned in America, according to US media reports.
But TikTok has become a cultural behemoth in the US, with more than half of Americas population using the app on a monthly basis.
Mr Chew said the average US user today is an adult, who is well past the typical college age of 18 to 22. @tiktok
Our CEO, Shou Chew, shares a special message on behalf of the entire TikTok team to thank our community of 150 million Americans ahead of his congressional hearing later this week. ? original sound – TikTok Americans comprise about 10 per cent of the apps global users, but form about 25 per cent of the total views around the world, he added.
Mr Chew vowed to firewall-protect US user data from unauthorised foreign access and grant access to third-party independent monitors, pledging that TikTok would not be manipulated by any government.
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, said Mr Chew.
He also outlined Project Texas TikToks US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) package of measures to better safeguard US user data and allay national security concerns.
These measures will ensure that all American user data is stored on US technology company Oracles servers located in the US, and earlier data stored on non-Oracle servers will be deleted.
When that process is complete, all protected US data will be under the protection of US law and under the control of the US-led security team. Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it, said Mr Chew. More On This Topic TikTok CEO says company at pivotal moment as some US lawmakers seek ban BBC urges staff to ditch TikTok on corporate devices over data fears These measures, he argued, were better than a national ban or forced sale of TikTok.
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, said Mr Chew.
But, he added, a ban was inappropriate, and a forced sale would not solve security concerns because a change in ownership would not impose new restrictions on data flows or access.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Chew appealed directly to TikTok users on the app and told them that the app faced a pivotal moment in the US.
Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok. Now this could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you, he said in a minute-long video on the platform.
He also asked American users to leave comments on what you want your elected representatives to know about what you love about TikTok.
TikTok has stepped up a public relations blitz in Washington in recent days, taking out ads in newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post, in addition to ads in metro and train stations around the nations capital.
Privacy control. Your priority. Our commitment, promised a pair of ads in Washingtons Union Station.
Dozens of TikTok content creators were reportedly scheduled to hold a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, alongside Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman, a rare figure in Washington who has vocally opposed a TikTok ban.
I havent seen any hard evidence that TikTok is committing some form of espionage, Mr Bowman told NBC News in an interview.
What Ive heard is speculation; what Ive heard is innuendo. More On This Topic How China Inc is tackling the TikTok problem US Justice Dept investigating TikToks owner over possible spying on journalists