TikTok CEO Shou Chew told Congress there are misconceptions about the app. He says banning the app will damage the US economy.
Chew’s written remarks were released ahead of the hearing that took place today. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” the remarks read. Chew goes on to say that TikTok has three areas of concern for its operation including protecting children on the platform, and protecting U.S. data from foreign access, and remaining a platform for free speech not influenced by any government.
TikTok has been fined by several government organizations in both the US and the UK for failing to keep minor children safe on the platform. Since those record fines, TikTok says it has implemented several safety controls to keep young kids safe online. Chew mentions TikTok’s age-gated controls that provide a different experience for 13-17-year-olds who use the app compared to those who are 18 or older.
TikTok says it limits the amount of information it collects when setting up an account, but Chew fails to mention how his company was caught accessing users’ clipboards to view pasted information. He also fails to mention how ByteDance employees were caught accessing U.S. user data through backdoors written into the app as reported by both Forbes and BuzzFeedNews.
“Current versions of the app do not collect precise or approximate GPS information from U.S. users,” Chew tells Congress, which means the app used to collect that information. Now it no longer does, likely after GPS and location concerns expressed by the U.S. military as early as 2019—before the pandemic boom that made TikTok a household name.
This hearing before congress marks Shou Chew’s first Congressional appearance, ahead of a potential ban on the app. A potential TikTok ban has been looming since 2020 when former President Trump was still in office. You can view the TikTok CEO’s full written statement to Congress here.