So, you’d think with TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew’s appearance before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that the app could finally clear the air about its relationship with the Chinese Government, right? Well, no, at least not entirely. When they said that TikTok’s future literally depended on Chew’s answers, his heavily vague replies and seemingly scripted answers might have even made TikTok appear more ‘Sus’.
Is It Drowning?
In a crucial hearing that would decide the app’s fate in the US, Chew was very passionate in his defense and sought to address US regulatory concerns, with the key issue being the potential sharing of American user data with the CCP. Chew sought to dispel the notion, while TikTok, of course, posted a public statement, supporting its head honcho’s perspective.
Chew was pressed on various aspects, relating to TikTok’s past actions on censorship (i.e whether it censors content critical of the CCP), its accessing of US user data, its algorithm, various aspects of youth safety, and more. For the most part, Chew was able to navigate the various questions without making definitive comments. However, at the same time, his appearance, as others would claim, wasn’t overly assuring, nor did it win over US Senators that much, if at all.
In particular, when pressed about whether or not ByteDance employees have spied on US citizens before, Chew deferred, saying that ‘Spying’ wasn’t the term that should have been used to describe what happened. Chew counter-pressed his summoners by questioning the track record of American companies on user data when asked about a potential divestment from ByteDance, something that US officials obviously didn’t jive with.
All-in-all, here’s Chew’s main purpose for appearing:
“The bottom line is this – American data is stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel.”
Cutting out a lot of the unnecessary political BS, Chew made it clear that TikTok is already enacting ‘Project Texas’, which is a multi-billion dollar plan to separate US user data from its parent company, securing said data within US sovereignty, completely inaccessible to China-based staff.
If you want to watch the entire hearing, you can do so here, on YouTube. It seemed more like another case of official US big-shots trying to force a popular Social Media app to bend to their demands, asking a lot from TikTok’s CEO, but not willing to provide sufficient, logical answers when Chew asked for elaborations.
For now, the future of TikTok remains hazy, and rising tensions between the US and China won’t make it any easier. However, now it also starts to fill as if TikTok wasn’t in the wrong in the first place, and that it was only caught in the middle – in what would perhaps be the largest spat between two nations; in all honesty, it’s like watching two kids fight over who has the right to the last carton of milk on the canteen’s daily special menu.