On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will face up against sceptical Washington lawmakers over the company’s apparent ties to the Chinese government in a battle for the survival of the wildly popular video-sharing app in the United States.
At 10:00 am (1400 GMT), the 40-year-old Singaporean will testify before the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee after enduring hours of intense interrogation by both Republicans and Democrats who are concerned that Beijing may use the site for espionage or to spread propaganda.
Government officials in the US, the EU commission, the UK, and Canada were compelled to erase the Tiktok app from their smartphones due to the pressure the Chinese company ByteDance is facing from Western nations.
The BBC, a British broadcaster, told its staff on Tuesday to delete TikTok from their phones.
The biggest threat to TikTok comes from the US, where President Joe Biden’s administration has issued an ultimatum to the firm that it give up its Chinese ownership or risk an outright ban.
A ban would be an unprecedented move by the US government against a media corporation, shutting off 150 million monthly users from an application that has emerged as a cultural force, particularly among young people, and the second-most popular form of entertainment in the country after Netflix.
According to prepared statements made public before of the House committee hearing, Chew will declare, “Let me express this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other government.”
“TikTok has never given or been given a request to give the Chinese government access to American customer data. And if such a request were ever made, TikTok would not comply, Chew would say in his opening remarks on Thursday.
Despite his assurances, it appeared that Chew was dealt a bad hand in Washington, where a number of bills, including one supported by the White House, have already been introduced that would ban the app.
According to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, “Americans deserve to know the extent to which their privacy is compromised and their data is abused by ByteDance-owned TikTok’s relationship with China.”
The Republican continued, “What’s more, we know big tech companies like TikTok utilize destructive algorithms to exploit kids for money and expose them to dangerous stuff online.
Former president Donald Trump also tried to outlaw the app in the last months of his administration, but a US judge ultimately overruled him.
Due to China’s resistance, a potential sale to Microsoft or spinoff to Oracle never materialized during that conflict.
Beijing urged Washington last week to “stop excessively repressing” TikTok and asserted that there is no proof that TikTok poses a threat to US national security.
Chew urged American users to defend their preferred app by telling government officials “what you love” about the platform in a TikTok post earlier this week.
Around a dozen teenagers, educators, and business owners gathered on Wednesday to protest a prospective ban in the US Capitol.
“Are there any alternative platforms? Yes, I’m working on them. In a video she posted to her 70,000 followers after arriving in Washington, wannabe soapmaker @countrylather2020 said: “But none of them have the reach that TikTok has.
Even if all parties were in agreement, a transaction would be extremely challenging.
The platform’s potent recommendation algorithm is what gives it its popularity, and according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, “separating the algorithm between TikTok and ByteDance is like separating Siamese twins.”
TikTok continues to seek to win over the authorities.
Chew’s testimony will advance the business’ intricate Project Texas strategy, which addresses national security concerns by ring-fencing the handling of US data into a US-run division.
He will inform the legislators that TikTok has already invested $1.5 billion in the venture and engaged 1,500 US-based employees to get it off the ground.